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Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy [Format Kindle]

Barbara Ehrenreich

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Présentation de l'éditeur

From the bestselling social commentator and cultural historian, a fascinating exploration of one of humanity's oldest traditions: the celebration of communal joy

In the acclaimed Blood Rites, Barbara Ehrenreich delved into the origins of our species' attraction to war. Here, she explores the opposite impulse, one that has been so effectively suppressed that we lack even a term for it: the desire for collective joy, historically expressed in ecstatic revels of feasting, costuming, and dancing.

Ehrenreich uncovers the origins of communal celebration in human biology and culture. Although sixteenth-century Europeans viewed mass festivities as foreign and "savage," Ehrenreich shows that they were indigenous to the West, from the ancient Greeks' worship of Dionysus to the medieval practice of Christianity as a "danced religion." Ultimately, church officials drove the festivities into the streets, the prelude to widespread reformation: Protestants criminalized carnival, Wahhabist Muslims battled ecstatic Sufism, European colonizers wiped out native dance rites. The elites' fear that such gatherings would undermine social hierarchies was justified: the festive tradition inspired French revolutionary crowds and uprisings from the Caribbean to the American plains. Yet outbreaks of group revelry persist, as Ehrenreich shows, pointing to the 1960s rock-and-roll rebellion and the more recent "carnivalization" of sports.

Original, exhilarating, and deeply optimistic, Dancing in the Streets concludes that we are innately social beings, impelled to share our joy and therefore able to envision, even create, a more peaceable future.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 518 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 337 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : 0805057242
  • Editeur : Metropolitan Books; Édition : 1st (26 décembre 2007)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B000Q9F4O2
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.6 étoiles sur 5  26 commentaires
26 internautes sur 27 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 I WANNA ROCK 28 janvier 2007
Par Anthony Pierulla - Publié sur
If you have ever wondered why you dance, when we and where dancing started,why has there always been dancing, why have some tried to stop it and most of all why does our heart beat faster, a glow come over our body, and our soul seems to rise to a place of unknown joy.

Well my friend this beautifully written work will give you a lot of ideas.

From the savannas of Africa to fiords of Norway you will have new insights into why we dance everywhere and why we will never stop until the last heart stops "beating."

I have always known dance has eternal powers but until I read this I never thought how these powers had been copted in the pursuit of bellicose motives that turned brother against brother.

Thanks to an NPR interview, that did not come close to doing this book justice, and the omnipresence of Amazon I was able to order, receive, read, digest and recommend this joy of a book in a matter of days. A Dionyesian feast that will dance in your mind for a lifetime. Thank you so much Ms. Ehrenreich.
7 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 an invitation to think, not a history of dance 30 juin 2007
Par Bonnie Gordon - Publié sur
Barbara Ehrrenreich is a writer and thinker involved in the exploration of social phenomenon. She is certainly a political thinker and definitely has a point of view about social phenomena as they impact modern life. She is not an historian or an anthropologist. I'm at a loss to understand the criticism of this book based on what it never pretends itself to be, a history of dance or an anthropological study of the ecstatic phenomenon.
Several people have found it necessary to point out that Barbara Ehrenreich is on the left politically and a product of the 1960s with an "ah hah" mentality that seems to indicate she has has somehow tried to hide this, or that it inherently shameful. Social thinkers who propose changes in the way we currently conduct our lives or our society ALWAYS have ideas which they promote (pejoratively described as biases) because they actively advocate for change. It would be dishonest to attempt to hide them behind a false "objectivity."
This kind of false "objectivity" has sapped the life, not only from much that passes for social commentary, but also from investigative journalism, in which the collection of a quote or two from "authorities" on each side of a conflict has replaced the search for the truth about a given situation. It has also lead to the false notion that the truth is always located in the middle of the road.
Bravo to Barbara Ehrenreich who never hides behind this sort of fakery in her search for the truth as she sees it. She invites readers to join the dance of two mindes, the writer's and the reader's, in thinking about topics that engage her own thoughts.
Some critics seem to be attacking the fact that her writing is interesting and fun to read. Never fear! I managed to read the book and enjoy it very much while maintaining my critical faculties and without agreeing with every one of Ehrenreich's conclusions. I did learn a lot AND my mind was engaged to think about dance and the human capacity for collective joy in ways that are new and exciting to me.
58 internautes sur 76 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 An interesting, although biased, reflection on a phenomenon in social history 16 janvier 2007
Par Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty - Publié sur
Barbara Ehrenreich's "Dancing in the Streets" is a rather unique approach to the subject of a human behavior which has roots going back to, probably, prehistoric days. And her discussion of the topic will, I suspect, be controversial and criticized from some viewpoints, particularly those who may be bothered by the subtitle: "A History of Collective Joy." However, the fact is that this is one of humankind's oldest traditions, the communal celebration of whatever it was that was important to the community -- fertility, security, the annual harvest, or whatever. Promoters of an "autonomous" individualism take note: this is not a book you will happily read. On the other hand, those who think that the individual person doesn't really count -- only the group matters -- may not like it either.

Her purpose for writing this book is clearly stated in the introduction: "If ecstatic rituals and festivities were once so widespread, why is so little left of them today? If the 'techniques' of ecstasy represent an important part of the human cultural heritage, why have we forgotten them, if indeed we have?" Well, I, personally, am not so sure that her initial assumptions are, in fact, true. I think it might be argued that the ecstatic rituals and festivities are still present with us, but they have simply taken on a different "form" consonant with the requirements of a "mass civilization" which has evolved over the past few centuries. I am not as pessimistic as she appears to be about the "collective joy" phenomenon. I do have friends who regularly participate in such behavior, although not for the benefit of the media, and their "rituals," if that be the appropriate word, are not for public consumption.

One of the problems with reading any book which falls within the "history" genre is to grasp and understand the particular viewpoint of the author or the stance which the author takes in selecting the facts presented and the interpretation of those facts in the larger context of the era or topic under examination. We have, for instance, many books about American history which are written from a conservative point of view or from an economic-determinism point of view or from a socialist point of view or from some other sociopolitical point of view. History books of a truly "objective" character are rather rare; virtually every one of them is "framed" to present some bias which the author of the book wants the reader to accept. "Dancing in the Streets" is no exception.

So, first, let me get into the disclaimer mode, just to protect myself from being accused of selling out to many of the very ideas that I personally oppose. I am well aware that many (if not all) of Barbara Ehrenreich's works are written on the socialist, "radical" feminist, and neo-marxist pallet of class, racist, gender, and power-politics. I have read or heard her interviews and, from both the so-called "left" and "right" perspectives, studied the evaluations of her contributions to current thought. Furthermore, while I may disagree with some of her interpretations, I cannot disagree with the facts she selected for this book (citations provided) and, moreover, she does deserve a hearing, in spite of the opinions that some commentators may have regarding her own political and social philosophy.

That being noted, what can really be said about this new book of hers? Interesting? Yes. Valuable? Yes. Thoughtful? Yes. A good history of something which may have been lost or, probably in most cases, diminished -- the phenomenon of "collective" joy? Yes. The final say on the issue? I think not. But that doesn't matter. She has something to say and, in my opinion, that something needs to be addressed. The eleven chapters of her book, beginning with "The Archaic Roots of Ecstasy" and ending with "Carnivalizing Sports," I will, for the purposes of this review, ignore. These chapters simply provide the foundation for her conclusion section, which is what I found most interesting and to which I would like to direct my attention. Her conclusion section, titled "The Possibility of Revival," will likely upset some politically conservative readers but, nevertheless, Ehrenreich, in spite of her specific sociopolitical bias, has some important things to say and they should be thought about seriously.

For instance, she says: "There is no powerful faction in our divided world committed to upholding the glories of the feast and dance." I think that is true. Then she points out: "The Protestant fundamentalism of the United States and the Islamic radicalism of the Middle and Far East are both profoundly hostile to the ecstatic undertaking." I think that is also true. Both socio-religious views do seem to be opposed to what constitutes "joyful" celebration in the sense in which Ehrenreich describes it. Then, "Even communism, which might have been expected to celebrate human sociality, turned be a drab and joyless state of affairs, in which, as in the capitalist West, mass spectacles and military parades replaced long-standing festive traditions." I also think that is true, as a brief perusal of modern social and political history will show. Any argument against these assertions?

While I do not accept the "class-warfare" or "class-consciousness" concept of historical determinism as a fundamental factor in the philosophy of history, the fact of the matter is that throughout human history one's social and/or economic status was important, even vital, to one's personal standing in the community, not to mention one's personal fulfillment and happiness, and simply cannot be cast aside, even though many commentators would like to deny it or ignore it. Like it or not, Ehrenreich is quite right in pointing out that civilization "tends to be hierarchical, with some class or group wielding power over the majority, and hierarchy is antagonistic to the festive and ecstatic tradition." And, for those of us who are lowercase "L" libertarians, she says that "This leaves hierarchical societies with no means of holding people together except for mass spectacles -- and force." And force, of course, we moderate libertarians understand -- and, for that matter, we don't much like mass spectacles either.

I recommend this book to all those interested in social history and cultural studies, as long as the reader recognizes that Ehrenreich writes from a particular sociopolitical perspective. Regardless, she has raised some interesting questions worth thinking about. Now that I'm finished with this review, I'm going out to find some of this "collective joy." In times like these, what other therapy is necessary?
10 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 An interesting look at how and why people have come together to mark special occasions 8 février 2007
Par Bookreporter - Publié sur
Throughout history, mankind has participated in a variety of rituals and celebrations. Some are somber and fairly simple (a wake, a funeral procession), while others are quite festive and elaborate (Mardi Gras in New Orleans, carnaval in Brazil).

DANCING IN THE STREETS, by prolific author and historian Barbara Ehrenreich, explains in great detail how and why human beings have come together to mark special occasions, the process by which these rituals have been passed down through the centuries, and what the events mean to participants.

Many of the rituals were planned and/or timed to celebrate a particular happening, such as a wedding, the bounty of the harvest, a funeral, or the rite of passage into adulthood. They often included many of the following components: a certain type of costume or dress, special foods and beverages, music and dancing, masks, body painting, headgear, etc. Certainly these celebrations frequently centered on a procession, a parade or athletic contests.

One only need to think about current-day Olympic games to realize just how much of the pageantry, ritual and symbolism has remained and been expanded upon. The special costumes (all team members of an individual nation are dressed alike), the opening ceremony (which includes the Parade of the Nations and proud flag waving), the lighting of the Olympic torch (which officially begins the competition) and music (the playing of the various national anthems at the medals ceremonies) tend to draw the observer in, making him or her feel like an integral part of the activities. When watching the Olympics on television, one is briefly transported to another time and place, where the similarities and successes (not the differences) of various cultures are being celebrated.

Cave drawings depicted dancing, masks and costumes. Dance was a common theme of ancient Greek art. French Revolutionary festivals included military parades, uplifting marches and officers in splendid uniforms. Explorers and missionaries who observed strange rituals (involving dance, fire, music and costumes) performed by darker skinned individuals were startled, puzzled and upset by what they saw. Even Darwin could not understand the stomping/dancing in unison by western Australian men as they beat their clubs and spears together. The drumming, the chanting and the music drew the observer in and encouraged him to participate and become part of the group.

Even today, at ballparks across the nation, fans are costumed in jerseys, caps and tee shirts emblazoned with their favorite team's logo. Some paint their faces or bare chests the colors of their team. One person moves a certain way, and soon thousands in the stadium are doing "the wave." And music? It might be a cheesy-sounding organ blaring "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" that causes spectators to stand, sway and sing along. Or a lively video is projected onto a huge screen, and soon fans are screaming "We Are Family." For a brief period of time they are part of a friendly crowd --- folks with whom they share a common bond, however briefly. When doing "the wave" or cheering on their team, they aren't strangers.

Barbara Ehrenreich laments the fact that we are very lonely people who lead separate and individual lives. Even though we may have strong family ties and/or find comfort and strength in religion, Ehrenreich firmly believes that we need to create more opportunities for people to experience and express collective joy.

--- Reviewed by Carole Turner
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Take back the power of joy 16 juillet 2008
Par Patricia Kramer - Publié sur
I found this book fascinating as it gave me a new way to frame history through looking at the power of collective joy. While reading it, I vowed to attend our neighborhood 4th of July parade - just because my kids are grown doesn't mean I can't celebrate with my decorated bike or dog. I am also looking forward to attending a game of our Madison Mallards Northwoods League baseball team where the stadium is truly family friendly, the fans are involved in the game, sit up close, sing, cheer, eat local food, and remember what it is to love the game of baseball.

We can only do a limited amount by watching life go by, it is time to get out and participate again.
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