Dance Floor Democracy: The Social Geography of Memory at the Hollywood Canteen

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9780822357575: Dance Floor Democracy: The Social Geography of Memory at the Hollywood Canteen

Open from 1942 until 1945, the Hollywood Canteen was the most famous of the patriotic home front nightclubs where civilian hostesses jitterbugged with enlisted men of the Allied Nations. Since the opening night, when the crowds were so thick that Bette Davis had to enter through the bathroom window to give her welcome speech, the storied dance floor where movie stars danced with soldiers has been the subject of much U.S. nostalgia about the "Greatest Generation." Drawing from oral histories with civilian volunteers and military guests who danced at the wartime nightclub, Sherrie Tucker explores how jitterbugging swing culture has come to represent the war in U.S. national memory. Yet her interviewees' varied experiences and recollections belie the possibility of any singular historical narrative. Some recall racism, sexism, and inequality on the nightclub's dance floor and in Los Angeles neighborhoods, dynamics at odds with the U.S. democratic, egalitarian ideals associated with the Hollywood Canteen and the "Good War" in popular culture narratives. For Tucker, swing dancing's torque—bodies sharing weight, velocity, and turning power without guaranteed outcomes—is an apt metaphor for the jostling narratives, different perspectives, unsteady memories, and quotidian acts that comprise social history.

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About the Author:

Sherrie Tucker is Professor of American Studies at the University of Kansas. She is the author of Swing Shift: "All-Girl" Bands of the 1940s and coeditor of Big Ears: Listening for Gender in Jazz Studies, both also published by Duke University Press.

Review:

"Sherrie Tucker has given us a meticulously researched and beautifully written evocation of the Hollywood Canteen. This original and highly creative work is a model of cultural history by a scholar of exemplary insight, intelligence, and sensitivity. Tucker brilliantly reads the dance floor to reveal meanings created, challenged, and negotiated by the dancers. Dance Floor Democracy insists upon a complex and multidimensional portrait of a period and a place too often viewed through the lens of nostalgia." (Farah Jasmine Griffin, author of Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists and Progressive Politics During World War II)

"The publication of Dance Floor Democracy elevates cultural studies scholarship to new levels of sophistication and significance. Sherrie Tucker's impressive skills as an oral historian, musicologist, and gender studies specialist coupled with her focused attention on the particularities of place and time have enabled her to craft an exemplary book. A book that is at one and the same time, a social history of the U.S. home front during World War II, a magnificent demonstration of how commercial culture functions as a historical force, and a generative exploration into the tensions between appeals to hierarchy and appeals to equality that lie at the heart of U.S. political culture."
  (George Lipsitz, author of Midnight at the Barrelhouse: The Johnny Otis Story)

Dance Floor Democracy is a model for what we might call embodied social and cultural history: works that takes the body (including that of the researcher herself) as a site of knowledge. ... Dance Floor Democracy reveals scholarly practice as its own kind of dancing.” (Gayle Wald Journal of Popular Music Studies)

“With its beautiful and clear writing style, this book would be of interest to an audience of general readers, as well as to specialists in dance and jazz. Tucker’s research methodology in this book is applicable to a wide range of interdisciplinary fields, including jazz studies, American studies, African American studies, ethnomusicology, and anthropology.” (Yoko Suzuki Women and Music 2015-10-01)

“More than just a straightforward history of the Canteen, Tucker’s smart and sophisticated analysis utilizes this unique wartime institution to understand the variety of ways in which WWII is remembered and memorialized in the present day. ... Dance Floor Democracy makes for a thoughtful, eye-opening account of the complexities of the World War II generation, especially given Tucker’s masterful skills as an oral historian.” (Elizabeth R. Escobedo Western Historical Quarterly 2015-10-01)

"Tucker contributes here not only to the fields of history, jazz, and American studies but also to the burgeoning field of critical dance studies. Reckoning with dance, in Tucker’s work, is a way to think differently about politics."  (Danielle Goldman Journal of American History 2015-12-01)

"Dance Floor Democracy is a valuable and exceptionally well-researched revisionist history of the Hollywood Canteen, critiquing not only the dominant paradigm of a friendly, democratic site, but also giving voice to the ‘others’ whose stories have been eclipsed by the feel-good memory of whom we wish we had been." (Rebecca A. Bryant Ethnomusicology 2016-04-01)

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Book Description Duke University Press, United States, 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Open from 1942 until 1945, the Hollywood Canteen was the most famous of the patriotic home front nightclubs where civilian hostesses jitterbugged with enlisted men of the Allied Nations. Since the opening night, when the crowds were so thick that Bette Davis had to enter through the bathroom window to give her welcome speech, the storied dance floor where movie stars danced with soldiers has been the subject of much U.S. nostalgia about the Greatest Generation. Drawing from oral histories with civilian volunteers and military guests who danced at the wartime nightclub, Sherrie Tucker explores how jitterbugging swing culture has come to represent the war in U.S. national memory. Yet her interviewees varied experiences and recollections belie the possibility of any singular historical narrative. Some recall racism, sexism, and inequality on the nightclub s dance floor and in Los Angeles neighborhoods, dynamics at odds with the U.S. democratic, egalitarian ideals associated with the Hollywood Canteen and the Good War in popular culture narratives. For Tucker, swing dancing s torque-bodies sharing weight, velocity, and turning power without guaranteed outcomes-is an apt metaphor for the jostling narratives, different perspectives, unsteady memories, and quotidian acts that comprise social history. Bookseller Inventory # AAJ9780822357575

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Book Description Duke University Press, United States, 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Open from 1942 until 1945, the Hollywood Canteen was the most famous of the patriotic home front nightclubs where civilian hostesses jitterbugged with enlisted men of the Allied Nations. Since the opening night, when the crowds were so thick that Bette Davis had to enter through the bathroom window to give her welcome speech, the storied dance floor where movie stars danced with soldiers has been the subject of much U.S. nostalgia about the Greatest Generation. Drawing from oral histories with civilian volunteers and military guests who danced at the wartime nightclub, Sherrie Tucker explores how jitterbugging swing culture has come to represent the war in U.S. national memory. Yet her interviewees varied experiences and recollections belie the possibility of any singular historical narrative. Some recall racism, sexism, and inequality on the nightclub s dance floor and in Los Angeles neighborhoods, dynamics at odds with the U.S. democratic, egalitarian ideals associated with the Hollywood Canteen and the Good War in popular culture narratives. For Tucker, swing dancing s torque-bodies sharing weight, velocity, and turning power without guaranteed outcomes-is an apt metaphor for the jostling narratives, different perspectives, unsteady memories, and quotidian acts that comprise social history. Bookseller Inventory # AAJ9780822357575

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