Disenchanting Les Bons Temps: Identity and Authenticity in Cajun Music and Dance
The expression laissez les bons temps rouler—"let the good times roll"—conveys the sense of exuberance and good times associated with southern Louisiana’s vibrant cultural milieu. Yet, for Cajuns, descendants of French settlers exiled from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in the mid-eighteenth century, this sense of celebration has always been mixed with sorrow. By focusing on Cajun music and dance and the ways they convey the dual experiences of joy and pain, Disenchanting Les Bons Temps illuminates the complexities of Cajun culture. Charles J. Stivale shows how vexed issues of cultural identity and authenticity are negotiated through the rich expressions of emotion, sensation, sound, and movement in Cajun music and dance.
Stivale combines his personal knowledge and love of Cajun music and dance with the theoretical insights of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari to consider representations of things Cajun. He examines the themes expressed within the lyrics of the Cajun musical repertoire and reflects on the ways Cajun cultural practices are portrayed in different genres including feature films, documentaries, and instructional dance videos. He analyzes the dynamic exchanges between musicians, dancers, and spectators at such venues as bars and music festivals. He also considers a number of thorny socio-political issues underlying Cajun culture, including racial tensions and linguistic isolation. At the same time, he describes various efforts by contemporary musicians and their fans to transcend the limitations of cultural stereotypes and social exclusion.
Disenchanting Les Bons Temps will appeal to those interested in Cajun culture, issues of race and ethnicity, music and dance, and the intersection of French and Francophone studies with Anglo and American cultural studies.