Date of Award

Winter 12-2-2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Kwasi Ampene

Second Advisor

Jay Keister

Third Advisor

Brenda M Romero

Abstract

Until the mid-twentieth century, the Venezuelan government and the country’s social elite considered insignificant the contributions made by Afrovenezuelans to the nation’s society and culture. Scholars and politicians considered Afrovenezuelans primitive and barbaric, and thus regarded their culture and customs an obstacle to national progress. In the midst of this racist environment, the Venezuelan government funded numerous initiatives in search for a “national” identity. Although Venezuelans discriminated against Blacks, it is evident that Afrovenezuelans significantly contributed to the making of the nation and to its unique identity through their rich culture and musical heritage. It was through the introduction of music into the national folklore that Afrovenezuelans were first recognized and assimilated into a homogeneous national agenda.

Consistent with the agenda of the government and the social elite, the majority of Afrovenezuelan studies published in the twentieth century focused on the preservation of national folklore through descriptive surveys and transcriptions. The folklore methods used in Venezuelan folk surveys, including works by Juan Liscano (1947) and Luis Felipe Ramon y Rivera (1971), emphasized the collection, preservation, and cataloguing of national folk music while undermining plural ethnic identities. As a result, there is a research vacuum in terms of the present realities of Afrovenezuelan musics and how they partake in diverse social processes including the construction of ethnic identity.

Based on ethnomusicological field research, my dissertation seeks to overcome this deficiency by investigating how Afrovenezuelans in Puerto Cabello, a city in the Central Coastal Region, experience and conceive their multiple identities through music. Unlike the early folklore studies, I do not emphasize preservation and nationalism. Instead, I focus on the construction of ethnic identity and identities of place through music performance while emphasizing the centrality of music in the empowerment of Afrovenezuelan communities. Using musical examples from Tambores de San Millán, I examine the intricate relationship between music and identity in Afrovenezuelan communities, and how Afrovenezuelans relate to the African Diaspora. My dissertation ultimately contributes to the understanding of how Afrovenezuelans construct their identities in post-colonial Venezuela, while providing clear examples of the strong linkage between music and ethnic identity.

Share

COinS