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Last time I saw him, was at the 2009 American Studies Meeting in Washington DC; he was holding court, fittingly, with a group

of students and New Orleans poet and activist Kalamu ya Salaam. Months later his edited volume In the Wake of Hurricane Katrina:

 New Paradigms and Social Visions was published, putting a fine point on all of the scholarship that was produced in the wake of Katrina.

 

 

Remembering Professor Clyde Woods

By Mark Anthony Neal

 

These groups [the black poor of the Mississippi Delta] learned a painful lesson that many scholars have yet to learn; slavery and the plantation are not an anathema to capitalism but are pillars of it…Slavery, sharecropping, mechanization, and prison, wage, and migratory labor are just a few permutations possible within a plantation complex. None of these forms changes the basic features of resource monopoly and extreme ethnic and class polarization.—Clyde Woods

I first read Professor Clyde Woods’ Development Arrested: The Blues and Plantation Power in the Mississippi Delta (Verso) shortly after it and my book What the Music Said were published. My immediate reaction was “damn, think I need to go back to the lab.” Thirteen years later, Development Arrested remains the most sophisticated analysis of the political economy of Black music that has been published in the last generation, in part because Woods never lost sight of the fact that the very economic engines that drove the degradation and exploitation of Black workers in the Delta, inspired a resistance to those engines in the music of the region—not simply through ideological retorts, but in creating something that soothed the souls of a people well beyond weary.

Yet the brilliance of the man’s work, paled in the light of the man’s humanity; He was simply “Good People.” Professor Woods and I crossed paths finally in 2003, in a way that bespeaks his good and supportive nature; he simply showed up to a reading that my  friend and journalist Esther Iverem hosted at her Washington DC home in support of my book Songs in the Key of Black Life. What I recall from that first encounter, is meeting a dude that I wished I had had the opportunity to connect with much earlier in my professional life. Still can remember talking to him about  Hip-Hop’s Blues aesthetic, as he reeled off lyric after lyric from Scarface to make his point. I never heard Scarface, or Southern rap for that matter, the same after that.

Over the past few years I was fortunate enough to run into Professor Woods fairly regularly at the annual American Studies Association meeting. Last time I saw him, was at the 2009 American Studies Meeting in Washington DC; he was holding court, fittingly, with a group of students and New Orleans poet and activist Kalamu ya Salaam. Months later his edited volume In the Wake of Hurricane Katrina: New Paradigms and Social Visions was published, putting a fine point on all of the scholarship that was produced in the wake of Katrina. Yet, as in all of his work, Professor Woods found that common thread to Black humanity, in what he regularly referred to as the “blues tradition of investigation and interpretation.”

There are many scholars who make lasting impressions with their work, but comparatively few that make those same impressions as simply good people. Professor Clyde Woods was the rare person who did both. He will be missed.

Source: NewBlackMan

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Development Arrested has no peer, for Clyde Woods is a rare scholar who takes the blues seriously as theory and social critique. Arguing that this folk discourse emerged in response to economic and political restructuring in the Delta during the 20th century, he goes on to show how it constitutes a critique of the plantation South, New South modernization, and the transformation of capitalist agriculture during the so-called Green Revolution. To paraphrase something Marx said a long time ago, Development Arrested reveals the connection between the arm of criticism (i.e., the blues/social science) and the criticism of arms: struggle for power in the Delta.—Robin D.G. Kelley

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Professor Woods earned his PhD in Urban and Regional Planning from UCLA and has taught at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Maryland His research focuses on the regional organization of poverty, power, race, and culture in the United States. His first book, Development Arrested examined these relationships in the rural Mississippi Delta and his upcoming study will address the role these social forces played in the construction of Black Los Angeles, from 1781 to the present. Another research area focuses on the philosophical and analytic contributions of Blues, Jazz, and Hip Hop. As part of this work, he recently co-edited Black Geographies and the Politics of Place with Katherine McKittrick. Finally, Professor Woods has initiated two long-term-research projects based in the Department. The first examines and supports the rebuilding efforts in New Orleans. The second project is designed to create a network of community members and scholars who are both studying Black Los Angeles and developing innovative policy solutions.BlackStudies

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Clyde Woods, Renowned Black Studies Scholar, Dies in Santa Barbara

Clyde Woods, 54, an associate professor at UC Santa Barbara and a distinguished scholar whose research examined social and public policy issues by studying the cultural practices of those oppressed by them, died July 6 at Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara, according to an announcement by the Department of Black Studies.

Woods, who was also acting director of the Center for Black Studies Research, began teaching at UCSB in 2005. His work demonstrated his overarching belief that the purpose of public social science is to explore and strengthen the links between knowledge embedded in communities of color and the knowledge disseminated by universities. . . . Woods was the author of three important books, including the recently published In the Wake of Hurricane Katrina: New Paradigms and Social Visions (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010); Development Arrested - Race, Power and the Blues in the Mississippi Delta (Verso, 1998), an interdisciplinary work that reframed the history of the Mississippi Delta by unearthing and interpreting the blues epistemology of its residents; and “Development Drowned and Reborn,” a study of post-Katrina New Orleans that is currently under review by the University of California Press. At the time of his death, Woods was also working on a book on Black California, and a new edition of “Development Arrested.”

A dedicated mentor and teacher to undergraduate and graduate students, Woods sparked interest in important topics related to Hurricane Katrina, Haiti, Black California, Black farmers, the education and prison systems, and the politics of rural capitalization. He was a master of one-on-one motivation of students of color, and his success as an educator outlined a practice of research-based teaching at the cutting edge of social science.

Woods was also a leader in several campus-wide initiatives, including the Black California Project; and the environmental racism-environmental justice curriculum initiative established in collaboration with UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management and Department of Environmental Studies.Independent

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Clyde Woods—Author (YouTube)

Clyde Woods, professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, is author of the ground-breaking study, Development Arrested: The Blues and Plantation Power in the Mississippi Delta. Woods speaks of the Blues both as music and as the unique philosophy of life that fostered the survival and creativity of the African American culture of the rural south. He reads a moving portrayal of the 'Blues Transformation,' by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., that produced the Poor People's March on Washington in 1968.

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Development Arrested

 The Blues and Plantation Power in the Mississippi Delta

By Clyde Woods

Development Arrested has no peer, for Clyde Woods is a rare scholar who takes the blues seriously as theory and social critique. Arguing that this folk discourse emerged in response to economic and political restructuring in the Delta during the 20th century, he goes on to show how it constitutes a critique of the plantation South, New South modernization, and the transformation of capitalist agriculture during the so-called Green Revolution. To paraphrase something Marx said a long time ago, Development Arrested reveals the connection between the arm of criticism (i.e., the blues/social science) and the criticism of arms: struggle for power in the Delta.—Robin D.G. Kelley

Development Arrested remains the most sophisticated analysis of the political economy of Black music that has been published in the last generation, in part because Woods never lost sight of the fact that the very economic engines that drove the degradation and exploitation of Black workers in the Delta, inspired a resistance to those engines in the music of the region.Mark Anthony Neal

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In the Wake of Hurricane Katrina

 New Paradigms and Social Visions

By Clyde Woods

Assessing the damage left by Hurricane Katrina in social, cultural, and physical terms, the essays in this volume suggest that the nation's long and historic engagement with the Gulf Coast has entered a new era. While many of the essays analyze Katrina in terms of the relatively recent past, others explore how reaction to the hurricane's aftermath is rooted in the region's history. Uniquely combining humanities and social sciences research, the contributors re-evaluate the political, social, and economic dynamics that existed before this "natural" disaster and the subsequent responses and actions, or lack thereof.

Investigations of public policies, organizations, social movements, and neo-liberalism range from a traditional policy case study of the often-neglected Alabama and Mississippi experience to an analysis of urban social movements in New Orleans to a broad critique of local policy that has global implications. Innovative young scholars provide essays on music, literature, tourism, and gender. Interviews with key community leaders and historic poets round out the volume.Johns Hopkins University Press

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Black Geographies and the Politics of Place 

By Katherine McKittrick and Clyde Woods

The history of black people in the Americas and the Caribbean cannot be told without addressing powerful geographical shifts: massive forced migrations, land dispossession, and legal as well as informal structures of segregation. From the Middle Passage to the “Whites Only” signposts of US apartheid, the black Diasporic experience is rooted firmly in the politics of place. Literature has long explored the cultural differences in the experience of blackness in different quarters of the Diaspora. But what are the real differences between being a maroon in the hills of Jamaica and a runaway in the swamps of Florida? How does location impact repression and resistance, both on the ground and in the terrain of political imagination? Enter Black Geographies. In this path-breaking collection, fourteen authors interrogate the intersection between space and race. For instance, confronted with the importance of space in black cultural creation and preservation, some activists have sought to protect or restore black historical sites such as Tulsa’s “Black Wall Street” and the African Burial Ground in New York City. For the dispossessed, all markers of history and belonging, including cultural property, become paramount. Yet each of these sites has in common acts of racial hatred and state terrorism that have left few of the historical structures standing—making them unlikely candidates for preservation. This begs the question: Is it even possible that advocating for preserving historic locations can act as a vehicle for social justice and spur community redevelopment?

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What the Music Said

Black Popular Music and Black Public Culture

By Mark Anthony Neal

While ably describing the ways in which the "aural landscapes" of noted performers like John Coltrane and Anita Baker comment on the social realities of their day, Neal is more concerned with social history than with musicology. His interpretations of music are closely informed by the impact of developments like Reconstruction, mass migration, urbanization, the civil rights movement and the rise of the black middle class on the African-American community at large. He is attuned to the nuance given to accounts of the black experience by class and gender at specific historical moments. He also charts the impact of the commercialization of various forms of black popular music, which, he argues, has often compromised the ability of their music to serve as an authentic articulation of African-American values and experience. However, commercialization is not, for Neal, the end of the cycle: when a genre becomes too heavily mediated by market forces, he says, black artists simply find new modes of self-expression. In this deftly written study, Neal persuasively demonstrates that, from the spirituals sung by slaves to 20th-century blues, jazz, be-bop and soul, music has provided important "aural public space" in which African-American communities have been able to share and evaluate their collective experiences.—Publishers Weekly

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posted 9 July 2011

 

 

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