Accepted Paper:

The white negro reconsidered: an exercise in ethnographic reflexivity  


Leo Couacaud (University of Mauritius)

Paper short abstract:

This paper tries to explain why affluent white males are looking to marginalized urban black males for cultural inspiration. This is done using Mailer's concept of the White Negro and Elias and Foucault's theories of Western subjectivity. It also offers a new interpretation of Black Coolness.

Paper long abstract:

For some time now, more reflexively-minded anthropologists have been urging their colleagues to take into account their own subjective experience whilst writing up ethnography. Yet with few exceptions, this has rarely gone beyond paying lip-service to the need to turn the looking glass on the anthropologist's own culture and, as a result, the tendency has been to reduce this culture to a rather glib and essentialist notion of a White Western Self. To counteract this trend - which it hardly needs pointing out commits the same fatal errors James Carrier (1992) has warned anthropologists against doing in what amounts to a reversal of Orientalism - I intend drawing upon the ideas of Norbert Elias and Michel Foucault to delineate a rough outline of what this White Western Self might actually look like. Along the lines of Norman Mailer's explanation of the White Negro in post-war American society, I will be arguing that the social restraint indicative of being incorporated into western bourgeois institutions may well explain why white males are copying the style of their more culturally creative black peers.

Panel W115
Urban marginalization and popular culture