What is the labor for Black soldiers of the regiment? That is the question Johari Jabir asks in his book Conjuring Freedom: Music and...

What is the labor for Black soldiers of the regiment? That is the question Johari Jabir asks in his book Conjuring Freedom: Music and Masculinity in the Civil War’s “Gospel Army” (Ohio State University Press, 2017). Conjuring Freedom analyzes the songs of the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, a regiment of Black soldiers who met nightly in the performance of the ring shout the counterclockwise song, dance, drum, and story in African American history and culture. Conjuring Freedom reflects the ring shout structure. Jabir illustrates three new concepts to cultural studies to describe the practices, techniques, and implications of the troop’s performance. First, Black Communal Conservatories, borrowing from Robert Farris Thompson’s “invisible academies” to describe the structural but spontaneous quality of black music-making. Then Listening Hermeneutics that accounts for the generative and material effects of sound on meaning-making. And finally Sonic Politics, which points to the political implications of music’s use in contemporary representations of race and history. The book discusses the meaning of conjure as a political and epistemological practice. Jabir demonstrates how the musical performance allowed troop members to embody new identities about national citizenship, militarism, and masculinity in more inclusive ways. Jabir also establishes how these musical practices of the regiment persisted long after the Civil War in Black culture, resisting, for instance, the paternalism and co-operative state anti-racism of the film Glory, and the assumption that Blacks need to be deracinated to be full citizens.

JOHARI JABIR, a practicing musical artist since age eight, serves as Associate Professor of African American Studies for the Department of African American Studies College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at The University of Illinois at Chicago. He frames his courses, African American introductory course, religious traditions, history, and music, using music as an epistemological frame.

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