Richard Price's Travels with Tooy culminates with a series of reflections on a fundamental fissure that has persisted in the theorization of African American culture. On one side are those who stress African cultural continuity of various kinds, and on the other, those who argue for the primacy of cultural dynamism, creativity and change. Drawing on ethnographic and philosophical insights gained from his close engagement with the book's protagonist, a Saramaka Maroon healer, Price seeks to transcend (if not nullify) the terms of the “hoary debate” kept alive by these opposed “camps.” This essay agrees with Price's argument against the starkly opposed positions of the past, but proposes that it may be too early to lay this continuing debate entirely to rest. Using music as a point of departure, it argues that experiential understandings that privilege cultural continuity, if properly contextualized, remain valuable, if not indispensable.
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Kenneth Bilby; African American Memory at the Crossroads: Grounding the Miraculous with Tooy. Small Axe 1 July 2009; 13 (2): 185–199. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-3697166
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