I plan to find a host family that I might live with, who might help me enter some facet of the community in Paris where I might become more acquainted with Parisian-French culture. Though I will do no formal interviews on French culture, I do expect the interactions and conversations I have to help me better understand the experiences of the expatriates I am studying. Though I am aware that Parisian culture has changed in the last 100 years, given the length of time French culture has been developing, an hundred years will make little difference in the large scheme of culture, which has its roots in centuries of history.
Furthermore, I hope to familiarize myself with the city, but particularly the parts of the city where African-American expatriates lived, worked, and socialized. I hope to visit many areas in Paris with sufficient history and representation of French culture to help me gather a larger understanding of what the French value, and by association what many expatriates would have clung to as their own values. I believe I will find these cultural insets within museums of art, history, monuments, churches and cathedrals, day-trips in and directly around Paris to important places.
More specifically, I also plan to attend some of the most directly related areas where jazz and blues have been fostered in Paris, attend concerts, revues or small shows. By making myself available to these activities, I hope to meet others who share these interests and might be willing to share their experiences and understanding of Jazz with me.
I expect my informants to be musicians and writers of the period I study, and therefore will be reading and listening a lot, analyzing their work and my understanding of their work within their historical context.
Though I don’t want to focus on contemporary Jazz and its modern expression in France, I will not turn down the opportunity to talk to others about jazz, soul, or blues, if they should want to. In this way, I am sure my opinions and understanding will be altered by what is shared with me, but I do not plan on formal interviews. If one should occur, or I find it necessary or beneficial, I will be explicit about the work and study I am doing, what part they play in it, and will most definitely share with them, if given the chance, the understanding they have helped me gain.
Sampling and Recruitment
I will stick to those sources in American and French history and culture, and African-American music and/or literature. Because my research focuses in history, few of those ‘sources’ will be living informants. As such, conversations or interactions with living informants about these topics will either be informal and/or consented to.
If interviews should be necessary or if they occur, I will have consent forms in French and English to help those informants be aware of my work, how they will influence it, giving them access to my final piece so they have an opportunity to be accurately and faithfully represented. This is not the focus of my research, however, and so I do not expect it to be a time-intensive or significant part of my overall project.
Description of Method
The methodology I will be using is primarily an American Studies methodology in which I will gather sources to help me with all four facets of the methodology: Textual Interpretation, Archive Building, Institutional Contextualization and Social Theory. The intention of looking at all four facets of an event, a place, or an ‘artifact’ is particular to the American Studies field, as it is interdisciplinary in nature and seeks to regards facets of American culture more holistically than if one were to look at American culture through history, sociology, economics, or literary movements alone.
Textual Interpretation will be gathered from autobiographies of the musicians and writers that lived in Paris and recorded their experiences in Paris. It will include music recordings as well, and may include a close reading of certain areas of the city. I will use theories of space and place to help me with this type of close reading.
Archive Building will consist of everything I can get my hands on from an understanding of the city itself, and its history, African American history, but particularly the history of music and jazz, and the history of African Americans in Paris during the 1920s and 1930s. A lot of this will be history of people and places. I will glean much of this information from books, but I plan to use the city itself as a guide, as I visit historical monuments, museums that can share particular insights on archeology, history, culture (art, music, etc.) and other influences the city has sustained or inspired.
Institutional Contextualization will primarily focus on the institution of jazz and its contextualization within the time period, however once one tries to contextualize an institution with regards to a particular cultural artifact—i.e. a song, a painting, a particular building, or a wall of graffiti—its application differs. As such, my use of this methodology will change in regards to particular artifacts or places. I hope my understanding of jazz as an institution, particularly in France will be aided by my attendance to jazz concerts in Paris and a better understanding of how the French took in Jazz as their own during and after the 1920s.
Last, Social Theory plays a big part in American Studies methodologies and the few I will focus on include race, transnational studies, and urban studies. Again, much of this information will come from reading, however, I will also try to glean information from the culture of Paris that I observe as I become familiar and acquainted with the city, and the cultures that have contributed to its diversity and culture. Much of this social theory, however, will be taking place within a better understanding of how African Americans were treated in America and a comparison of how they were treated in France. Since I cannot interview those who experienced the move from America to France during this time, I will have to rely more on history and a strong ‘archive’ to supplement my understanding.