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Seems Like Murder HereSouthern Violence and the Blues Tradition$
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Adam Gussow

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780226310978

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226311005.001.0001

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Guns, Knives, and Buckets of Blood

Guns, Knives, and Buckets of Blood

The Predicament of Blues Culture

(p.195) Chapter Five Guns, Knives, and Buckets of Blood
Seems Like Murder Here

Adah Cussow

University of Chicago Press

This chapter argues that blues weapons were instruments of self-making rather than random mayhem. It also examines the predicament of blues culture as Zora Neale Hurston came to know it: that the culture's astonishing expressive vitality was inseparable from the bodily pain that blues people regularly inflicted, or threatened to inflict, on each other. Intimate violence was a way of saving face in a panracial southern culture of honor and vengeance where self-respect could be preserved through swift, brutal, hands-on reprisal. “I'll Be Your .44” worked a metaphorical terrain employed by both gangsta rap and its Jamaican equivalent. Weapons served as a phallic totem and may be utilized as a stylus, often as a way of making visible one's own emotional wounds. As Hurston had discovered in the Polk County jooks, women claimed by the blues could be every bit as jealous, possessive, and murderous as their male peers.

Keywords:   blues weapons, Zora Neale Hurston, blues culture, intimate violence, I'll Be Your .44, Polk County jooks, reprisal, honor, vengeance

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