Dancing the local : two-step and the formation of local cultures, local places, and local identities in Austin, TX




Ronald, Kirsten Marie

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This dissertation uses Austin’s two-step country dance scene to examine the construction of the local in American culture. Two-step is a social dance that is central to country music culture in Texas, Oklahoma, and the Southwest. Without a central governing body, the form and social norms associated with the dance vary across dance communities, which means that dancers use two-step to both construct and express their local culture. In Austin, the local two-step scene is a conservative response to neoliberal globalization, which many dancers feel is destroying Austin’s unique identity and culture. Here, the local operates along four interrelated dimensions. As a scene, the local is constituted through the performance of traditional gender roles; as a place, it is preserved and policed via social and structural constraints; as a form of belonging, it is a whiteness that is shaped by the Mexican and Mexican-American bodies and practices that it excludes; and as a scale, it is a terrestrially bound social formation that is inextricable from the global culture it purports to resist. Many cultural theorists emphasize the progressive potential of the local. However, the inner workings of Austin’s two-step scene suggest that the local can just as easily espouse an insular, exclusive politics, even in a supposedly progressive city.


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