1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Sherri Lynn Colby-Bottel

Resident Ph.D. Alum

P.O. Box 400120

My dissertation examines the local management of traditional jazz music in post-Katrina New Orleans. “Traditional jazz” is generally understood to be the early form of jazz developed and played in New Orleans at the turn of the 20th century. Locals often explain traditional jazz as they explain their city: The culmination of centuries of blended peoples and cultures making New Orleans, and its music, unique. While “cultural mixture” is credited in the development of New Orleans traditional jazz, that same music is now a century-long tradition—replete with expectations of historical authenticity and requirements of sincere musical engagement that must be upheld if the tradition is to be maintained. And the stakes are high. The jazz iconography is a central element of New Orleans’ tourism economy. It is also emblematic of a city where not so long ago, locals faced a disaster that sparked the fear of losing it all, the fear of New Orleans becoming an inauthentic, corporatized, caricature of itself.

Of course, the quest for authenticity as a real “cultural essence” is never successful. Authenticity is always receding, always subject to context, position, and in-the-moment interpretations. When talking to musicians about “authentic New Orleans traditional jazz,” there is never full agreement about what this means. However, I propose that when authenticity becomes a defining feature of a social-organizational structure such as a corporate workplace or a tourism industry, enactment of the “authentic tradition” becomes subject to management and control. Yet, as local people see it, to fix and manage “authentic New Orleanian-ness” is to reify or corporatize it, and this can lead to its destruction. In response, I found that New Orleans musicians and music boosters alike use expectations about intent as “sincerity in practice” to mediate conflicts between managed authenticity and the more spontaneous, individuated enactment of the authentic jazz tradition they valued. At the close, I argue that this music discourse is metonymic of a broader, cohesive local aesthetic: That the social process found in New Orleans traditional jazz music—in which intent mediates problems in execution—can be understood as one transposition of what it means to be an authentic New Orleanian writ large.

In my analysis, I draw on current theoretical trends in anthropological studies of authenticity and sincerity, and tourism and tradition, as a foundation for my exposition of socially produced authenticity. I show how recent ethnomusicological studies contribute to anthropological knowledge by approaching the making and consumption of music as a thoroughly social process, rather than simply a reflection of those processes. I also draw on my 20 years of professional experience as a performer of traditional jazz. My grounding in the West Coast style of traditional jazz has positioned me as both insider and outsider to the New Orleans traditional jazz community. With this diverse set of professional and academic skills, I have documented the local management of traditional jazz in the five years following Katrina and aim to make contributions to ethnographies of recovery, as well as the developing field of the anthropology of music.

Presentations:

  • Nov 2010: “Civic Associations, Popular Art, and Local Democracies in New Orleans Traditional Jazz Music-Making,” American Anthropological Association Annual Meetings, New Orleans, LA
  • Nov 2010: “Salvaging and Refashioning Music Traditions in Post-Katrina New Orleans,” Society for Ethnomusicology and Musicology Annual Meetings, Los Angeles, CA
  • Jun 2010: “Sincerity, Authenticity, and Rebuilding New Orleans Traditional Jazz,” Gulf Coast Returning to Katrina Research Summit, University of Southern Mississippi, Gulfport, MS
  • Apr 2010: “Resilience, Busking, and Making Traditional Jazz in New Orleans Streets,” International Association for the Study of Popular Music, New Orleans, LA
  • Nov 2006: “New Orleans Roots Music Communities and the Rebuilding of Tradition,” American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA
  • Mar 2006: “Networking Post-Disaster Virtual Media and Maintaining Community Networks,” Co-authored with Roberto Armengol (University of Virginia), American Cultures Conference, Williamsburg, VA

Guest Lectures:

  • Nov 2010: “Anthropology of Music Part Two: Research Findings,” Arizona Classic Jazz Preservation Society, Phoenix, AZ
  • May 2010: “Tourism, Authenticity, and New Orleans Traditional Jazz,” Drexel University Graduate Center, Sacramento, CA
  • Nov 2009: “Anthropology of Music Part One: Researching the Music I Grew Up Making,” Arizona Classic Jazz Preservation Society, Phoenix, AZ

Specializations

Cultural traditions in urban spaces, contemporary music practices, heritage tourism, authenticity and sincerity, race and nationalism, urban and civic identities; North America, US Gulf South, New Orleans.

Graduate Students

Cory-Alice Andre-Johnson
Pre-Fieldwork
Julia Barnes
Pre-Fieldwork
Irtefa Binte-Farid
Conducting Field Research
Lee Bloch
Conducting Field Research
Jessica Boynton
Pre-Fieldwork
Erika Brant
Fieldwork Completed
Alison Broach
Fieldwork Completed
Jeffrey Burnett
Pre-Fieldwork
Tracie Canada
Pre-Fieldwork
Jacqueline Cieslak
Fieldwork Completed
Sherri Lynn Colby-Bottel
Resident Ph.D. Alum
Lucas de Carvalho
Fieldwork Completed
Dannah Dennis
Fieldwork Completed
Brandon Dillard
Pre-Fieldwork
Bremen Donovan
Pre-Fieldwork
Grace East
Pre-Fieldwork
Kyle Edwards
Pre-Fieldwork
Anna Eisenstein
Conducting Field Research
Johnathan Favini
Pre-fieldwork
David Flood
Fieldwork Completed
Macario Garcia
Conducting Field Research
Julia Jong Haines
Conducting Field Research
Beth Hart
Fieldwork Completed
Nathan Hedges
Fieldwork Completed
Ida Hoequist
Pre-Fieldwork
Carolyn Howarter
Fieldwork Completed
Yu-Chien Huang
Fieldwork Completed
Erin Jordan
Pre-Fieldwork
Jiyeon Kang
Conducting Field Research
Dionisios Kavadias
Fieldwork Completed
Daniel King
Pre-Fieldwork
Kristin LaHatte
Fieldwork Completed
Mu Li
Pre-Fieldwork
Sue Ann McCarty
Fieldwork Completed
Michelle Morgenstern
Pre-Fieldwork
Nathalie Nahas
Fieldwork Completed
Jeffrey Nicola
Fieldwork Completed
Susan Palazzo
Fieldwork Completed
Mary Pancoast
Conducting Field Research
Xinyan Peng
Pre-Fieldwork
Saad Quasem
Pre-Fieldwork
Alessandro Questa
Fieldwork Completed
Grace Reynolds
Fieldwork Completed
Giancarlo Rolando
Fieldwork Completed
Ekaterina Sevastakis
Pre-Fieldwork
Harri Siikala
Fieldwork Completed
Sheena Singh
Fieldwork Completed
Josh Wayt
Pre-Fieldwork
Michael Wenzel
Pre-Fieldwork
LuAnn Williams
Fieldwork Completed
Uzma Zafar
Pre-Fieldwork
Mingyun Zhang
Pre-Fieldwork