Disenchanting Les Bon Temps: Identity and Authenticity in Cajun Music and Dance.

Author:Guest-Scott, Anthony
Position:Book review

Disenchanting Les Bon Temps: Identity and Authenticity in Cajun Music and Dance. By Charles J. Stivale. Post-Contemporary Interventions Series, edited by Stanley Fish and Frederic Jameson. (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2003. Pp. 217, acknowledgments, introduction, notes, works cited, index.)

In a quote that the author borrows from Todd Mouton ("Checking the Rear View", Offbeat, July 1999, 37-41), Zachary Richard articulates the paradoxical sense the term les bon temps, which literally translates as "the good times," has for Cajun and Creole musicians:

The basic contradiction of Cajun music ... is that you have songs which are about nothing but heartache, loneliness, loss--loss of love, loss of property, loss of stature in the society, all of these things--on this music that is absolutely joyful. So it's this incredible contradiction that is part of the Cajun soul, I think. You know, that even in pain you celebrate. (2) The author of Disenchanting Les Bon Temps, Charles J. Stivale, borrows the term "disenchanting" from Sylvia Winter ("On Disenchanting Discourse: 'Minority' Literary Criticism and Beyond," Cultural Critique 7:207-44, 1987) to characterize the way in which he seeks to demystify and deconstruct the various facets of cultural representations that sustain the spiritual and mythic force of this term as they simultaneously celebrate it. As Stivale points out, "the constructions of identity and authenticity in the Cajun dance and music arena manifest ways in which contemporary societies and social groups deploy cultural representations for a broad range of strategic and ideological ends" (3). To this end, Disenchanting seeks to explore the intersection of local and global social-cultural activity by demonstrating some of the ways in which the practices of various local cultural agents affect wider global representations of Cajun music and musicians.

Stivale draws on his extensive personal experience with the community he studies in his effort to pinpoint issues of identity and authenticity as constructions situated in social spaces, inextricably tied to loci of their cultural production. He attenuates this first-hand experience through a combined theoretical lens of cultural studies literature and the scholarly output of theorists Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (cf. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983[1977]). Consequently, the work's purview includes a wide...

To continue reading