TAS202 The Globalisation of "Black" American Expressive Culture

Teacher responsible:

Dr. Garry Robson, prof. UJ

Brief course description:

The course examines the generation, development and global spread of a distinctively 'black' American aesthetic in popular coulture, focusing in the main on the case of music. We will examine the formation and development of African-American culture and the ways in which popular music is a sphere in which black and white Americans have produced the syncretic art forms best exeplify the country's 20th century social history - and, arguably, represent the America's most unique and powerful contribution to global popular culture.


The course is designed to extend students understanding of selected aspects of African-American expressive culture and its derivatives through analysing popular art forms through the prism of sociology and social history. Students should, by the end of the course, have developed a rounded grasp of relationships between race, popular culture, national identity and the global circuits through which 'black' cultural forms are disseminated, as well as and some of the most important effects of this dissemination.


1. Introduction-themes and concepts.
2.The Blues and double consciousness.
3.Jazz 1- American syncretism and contesdtred meanings.
4. Jazz 2- the black avant garde as high art.
5. Rhythm 'N' Blues & Rock 'N' Roll: Syncretism or appropriation?
6.Civil rights and soul music.
7. Authenticity, the 'white negro', the counter culture and multiculture.
8. Transatlantic circuits of culture.
9. Routes of the African cultural diaspora: Bob Marley.
10. Disco, house and the globalisation of the rave.
11. Hip Hop: black public sphere or the new ministrelsy?

Reading list:

Bromel, N.,"The Blues and the Veil": The Cultural Work of Musical Form in Blues an '60s rock', American Music, Vol.18, No.2.
Guralnick, P.,Searching for Robert Johnson, London & New York: Plume, 1998.
Jones, A.C.,"The Foundational Influence of Spirituals in African-American Culture: A Psychological Perspective', Black Music Research Journal, Vol.24, No.2.,2004.
Neal, M.A., What the Music Said: black Popular Music and Black Public Culture, London & new york: Routledge,1999.
Lees, G.,Cats of Any Colour: Jazz in Black and White, Camrige, MA: Da Capo Press, 1995.
Starr, L. and Waterman, C., American Popular Music: From Ministrelsy to MTV, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Early, G.,Pulp and Circumstance: the Story of Jazz in High Places', in The Culture of Brusing: Essays on Prizefighting, Literature, and Modern American Culture, Hopwell, NJ: The Ecco Press, 1994.
Crouch, S.,'Jazz Criticism and Its Effect on the Art Form', in Considering Genius: Writing on Jazz, Camridge, MA: Basic Civitas Books, 2006.
Guralnick. P., Last Train to Memphis, London:Abacus, 1994.
Mailer,N.,'The White Negro', Dissent, Fall 1957 ( reprinted Winter 2008)
Crouch,S.,'The Late, Late Blues: Jazz Modernism', in The Artificial White Man: Essays on Authenticity, New York: Basic Books, 2004.
Freeman,S.,Otis!:The Otis Redding Story,New York: St. Martin's Press, 2001