Shake It Like A Salt Shaker: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in New Orleans Bounce Culture

Ari Ben Mosha Gagné, University of Colorado Boulder


A subgenre of hip hop born in New Orleans, bounce was at first almost entirely produced and consumed by members of the Black community, both heterosexual and gay. In the last decade, however, bounce has developed a new local white audience. Its participants now represent a diverse cross-section not only of genders and sexual preferences, but also of race[s]. As a result, the landscape of bounce culture has begun to change. Through in-person interviews, ethnography, and personal narratives, this dissertation explores these changes. My research examines, in particular, the complexities that arise when white audiences consume and participate in a Black art form like bounce.

I explore the purpose bounce serves for its full range of participants--the people who actually listen to, dance to, and identify with it. Specifically, I look at the role played by race, gender, and sexuality in the way bounce fans--Black and white, gay and heterosexual--use both music and dance to express parts of their identity and their relationship to New Orleans. In doing so, I present a thorough analysis of the female style of bounce dancing in order to illustrate how women and gay men, both Black and white, are empowered and liberated by a style of dance that outsiders regard as hypersexual.

Even though bounce culture presents an invaluable research opportunity for multiple fields of study, only one publication to date has addressed bounce at any length. This project expands previous research not only by addressing the topic of dance in detail, but also by highlighting how audiences, as much as music producers, engage in shaping and producing both the music and dance. Ultimately, my research demonstrates that an inquiry into bounce culture is critical to the broader discussions regarding race, gender, and sexuality.