ABOUT THIS BOOK
Conjuring Freedom: Music and Masculinity in the Civil War’s “Gospel Army” analyzes the songs of the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, a regiment of Black soldiers who met nightly in the performance of the ring shout. In this study, acknowledging the importance of conjure as a religious, political, and epistemological practice, Johari Jabir demonstrates how the musical performance allowed troop members to embody new identities in relation to 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-optive state antiracism of the film Glory, and the assumption that Blacks need to be deracinated to be full citizens.
Reflecting the structure of the ring shout—the counterclockwise song, dance, drum, and story in African American history and culture—Conjuring Freedom offers three new concepts to cultural studies in order to describe the practices, techniques, and implications of the troop’s performance: (1) Black Communal Conservatories, borrowing from Robert Farris Thompson’s “invisible academies” to describe the structural but spontaneous quality of black music-making, (2) Listening Hermeneutics, which accounts for the generative and material affects of sound on meaning-making, and (3) Sonic Politics, which points to the political implications of music’s use in contemporary representations of race and history.