Exploring the Virulent Jazz Counterculture in Mumbo Jumbo
This article will be focusing on Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo (1972), a vibrant postmodernist text, which offers a fresh perspective on the rise of black popular culture in the form of Jes Grew, which is largely informed by jazz and neo-hoodoo aesthetics. Jes Grew, the phenomenon which binds the multifaceted text in cohesion and brings together elements from History, Jazz and Afrofuturism, is communicated by using the metaphor of a virulent disease- the Jes Grew pandemic. The article is a work in cultural studies, attempting to map the evolution of the counter culture that Jes Grew represents and its effect on identity. This mapping is achieved by viewing the equation of the Jazz counter-culture with the Jes Grew pandemic. Jes Grew decodes the cultural and racial politics Mumbo Jumbo is invested in by destabilising the meaning and perspective attached to ‘disease’ and adapting it to an entirely new climate of cultural reclamation and celebration by deconstructing the dominant culture defined illness (Jes Grew in the text) and reinterpreting it as potentially healing and liberating. The discussion of the politics and aesthetics of this counter-culture mainly hinges on the central metaphor of the Jes Grew pandemic operating throughout the narrative. Raymond Williams’ work on culture studies and Stuart Hall’s theory on the formation and representation of cultural identities are particularly helpful in discussing the issues of culture and identity that are in dialogue with the narrative.
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