- 1 week ago
What does it mean to be authentically Cajun?
By Lisa Wade, PhD
The term “Cajun” refers to a group of people who settled in Southern Louisiana after being exiled from Acadia (now Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island) in the mid 1700s. For a very long time, being Cajun meant living, humbly, off the land and bayou (small-scale agriculture, hunting, fishing, and trapping). Unique cuisine and music developed among these communities.
In Blue Collar Bayou, Jaques Henry and Carl Bankston III explain that today more than 70% live in urban areas and most work in blue collar jobs in service industries, factories, or the oil industry. “Like other working-class and middle-class Americans,’ they write, “the Southwestern Louisianan of today is much more likely to buy dinner at the Super Kmart than to trap it in the bayou” (p. 188).
But they don’t argue that young Cajuns who live urban lifestyles and work in factories are no longer authentically Cajun. Instead, they suggest that the whole notion of ethnic authenticity is dependent on economic change.
When our economy was a production economy (that is, who you are is what you make), it made sense that Cajun-ness was linked to how one made a living. But, today, in a consumption economy (when our identities are tied up with what we buy), it makes sense that Cajun-ness involves consumption of products like food and music.
Of course, commodifying Cajun-ness (making it something that you can buy) means that, now, anyone can purchase and consume it. Henry and Bankston see this more as a paradox than a problem, arguing that the objectification and marketing of “Cajun” certainly makes it sellable to non-Cajuns, but does not take away from its meaningfulness to Cajuns themselves. Tourism, they argue, “encourages Cajuns to act out their culture both for commercial gain and cultural preservation” (p. 187).
- 3 weeks ago
An exhibition of Parks’ rare color photographs, entitled “Gordon Parks: Segregation Story,” will go on view this fall at The High Museum of Art in Atlanta. The photos capture a particularly disturbing moment in American history, captured via the lives of an African American family, the Thorntons, living under Jim Crow segregation in 1950s Alabama. See all of the photos here.
- 3 weeks ago
- 3 weeks ago
Happy 88th Birthday David Attenborough b. 8th May 1926
The remote and lonely beach where I first saw a Komodo dragon, ten feet long, stalking imperiously across the sand, now receives several boatloads of visitors every day. The tropical swamps in northern Australia filled with magpie geese are now part of a national park and queues of visitors file into the caves to see the ancient rock paintings that I was lucky enought to photograph for the first time.
From the seventies onwards, the films had reasonable technical competence. As I look at them now, lined up on a shelf, I like to think that they give a fair and comprehensive picture of how the natural world was and how human beings viewed it during the second half of the twentieth century. Maybe in another fifty years they will be valued as records of some species that have by then disappeared. I hope not.
But I did not make them because I had premonitions of impending eco-disaster. I did so because I know of no pleasure deeper than that which comes from contemplating the natural world and trying to understand it.
- David Attenborough, Life on Air, 1997