Re-reading Primitivism in Hugues Panassié’s Writing on Jazz

Perchard, Tom. 2011. 'Re-reading Primitivism in Hugues Panassié’s Writing on Jazz'. In: Jazz and Race, Past and Present. Open University. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Before WWII, Hugues Panassié (1912-74) was Europe's leading critical authority on jazz; by the time of his death he had been President of the Hot-club de France for over 40 years, and had published a dozen books on the music. Yet despite this life's-worth of efforts made in jazz's name, Panassié's reputation is no longer a good one: pointing to the fantasies of black exceptionalism and Noble Savagery present in the critic's work, historians have tended to dismiss Panassié as a racist primitivist, one in thrall to that contemporary negrophilie most familiar today from early-century Parisian visual art. The 'primitivist' epithet is well deserved, indeed, Panassié used the term himself. But this paper traces the ultra-conservative writer's intellectual and religious formation to show that, rather than contemporary negrophilie, it was a religious and cultural heritage quite distant from the modern European encounter with blackness that first informed Panassié's primitivism. Though this re-reading does not aim to 'rehabilitate' someone who remains a troublesome and reactionary figure, the paper nevertheless goes on to explore how, in his primitivist rejection of European modernism, Panassié sometimes pre-empts important arguments made by the post-modern jazz scholarship that would marginalise his historical contributions.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

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5 November 2011Completed

Event Location:

Open University

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Date Deposited:

26 Mar 2013 07:33

Last Modified:

30 Jun 2017 10:00


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