Cover image for Cultures of darkness : night travels in the histories of transgression
Title:
Cultures of darkness : night travels in the histories of transgression
Author:
Palmer, Bryan D.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Monthly Review Press, [2000]

©2000
Physical Description:
xiii, 609 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781583670262

9781583670279
Format :
Book

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Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library HM646 .P35 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

Peasants, religious heretics, witches, pirates, runaway slaves, prostitutes and pornographers, frequenters of taverns and fraternal society lodge rooms, revolutionaries, blues and jazz musicians, beats, and contemporary youth gangs--those who defied authority, choosing to live outside the defining cultural dominions of early insurgent and, later, dominant capitalism are what Bryan D. Palmer calls people of the night. These lives of opposition, or otherness, were seen by the powerful as deviant, rejecting authority, and consequently threatening to the established order.

Constructing a rich historical tapestry of example and experience spanning eight centuries, Palmer details lives of exclusion and challenge, as the "night travels" of the transgressors clash repeatedly with the powerful conventions of their times. Nights of liberation and exhilarating desire--sexual and social--are at the heart of this study. But so too are the dangers of darkness, as marginality is coerced into corners of pressured confinement, or the night is used as a cover for brutalizing terror, as was the case in Nazi Germany or the lynching of African Americans.

Making extensive use of the interdisciplinary literature of marginality found in scholarly work in history, sociology, cultural studies, literature, anthropology, and politics, Palmer takes an unflinching look at the rise and transformation of capitalism as it was lived by the dispossessed and those stamped with the mark of otherness.


Summary

Peasants, religious heretics, witches, pirates, runaway slaves, prostitutes and pornographers, frequenters of taverns and fraternal society lodge rooms, revolutionaries, blues and jazz musicians, beats, and contemporary youth gangs--those who defied authority, choosing to live outside the defining cultural dominions of early insurgent and, later, dominant capitalism are what Bryan D. Palmer calls people of the night. These lives of opposition, or otherness, were seen by the powerful as deviant, rejecting authority, and consequently threatening to the established order.

Constructing a rich historical tapestry of example and experience spanning eight centuries, Palmer details lives of exclusion and challenge, as the "night travels" of the transgressors clash repeatedly with the powerful conventions of their times. Nights of liberation and exhilarating desire--sexual and social--are at the heart of this study. But so too are the dangers of darkness, as marginality is coerced into corners of pressured confinement, or the night is used as a cover for brutalizing terror, as was the case in Nazi Germany or the lynching of African Americans.

Making extensive use of the interdisciplinary literature of marginality found in scholarly work in history, sociology, cultural studies, literature, anthropology, and politics, Palmer takes an unflinching look at the rise and transformation of capitalism as it was lived by the dispossessed and those stamped with the mark of otherness.


Author Notes

Bryan D. Palmer is editor of the Canadian journal Labour/Le Travail and teaches working-class and social history.


Bryan D. Palmer is editor of the Canadian journal Labour/Le Travail and teaches working-class and social history.


Reviews 6

Publisher's Weekly Review

"The night is different, its opposition to day marked by darkness and danger... [B]ut its fears are balanced by its freedoms," begins this enthralling and important trans-historical study of the metaphoric and actual meaning of night cultures. Palmer's canvas is hugeDit ranges from an analysis of early modern witch culture (which he connects to the later development of Puritanism) to the emergence of 19th-century semisecret fraternal orders such as the Oddfellows, the vibrant 20th-century gay male cultures of drag and sadomasochism, and the emergence of a U.S. jazz and blues cultureDyet he manages to bring these diverse topics together in a cohesive and astute analysis. Integrating unusual details and artful nuances (from the specifics of 18th-century pirate executions to the links between the Rosenberg trial and the novels of Micky Spillane), Palmer creates a multilayered but seamless portrait of four centuries of Western culture. The underlying theme here is not simply that "night" offers the occasional transgressive respite from the orderly civilization of "day," but that these alternative social, political and artistic spaces are often where the impetus for social change begins. Palmer's bold theme is sustained by his ability to communicate his in-depth, far-ranging scholarship with a broad political vision, which is Marxist in origins but tempered by postmodernism, and by his accessible and highly entertaining writing style. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

According to Palmer (history, Queens Univ., Canada; Goodyear Invades the Backcountry: The Corporate Takeover of a Rural Town), the controlling social, economic, and political structures since the Middle Ages have created classes of marginalized persons that he calls "people of the night." Palmer uses the image of the night to discuss peasants, witches, prostitutes, bakers, revolutionaries, and jazz musicians, who may not always have worked at night but who existed at the edges of social control. These men and women created exciting cultures containing elements that moved into mainstream society. Palmer also applies the same metaphor to examine repression in Nazi Germany and America's treatment of blacks. While the book is fascinating reading, it is very dense and technically written and assumes a knowledge of the ideas of Karl Marx and Michel Foucault. Nevertheless, it is well worth the effort and nicely complements Stephen J. Pfohl's Images of Deviance and Social Control (McGraw-Hill, 1994). For academic and larger public libraries. Stephen L. Hupp, Urbana Univ., OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

Palmer (Queen's Univ., Canada) is a social historian who has written an unusual work of historical scholarship, a highly readable yet deeply learned history: there are 127 pages of single-spaced notes to 458 pages of text. The author explores "cultures of darkness" and "histories of the night" from the late medieval period to the 1992 Rodney King riots of Los Angeles. The "night" in question is not only the time that follows day when oppressed transgressors, ranging from prostitutes to thieves, are at work, but also a geographic and social space. "Space" encompasses an extraordinary variety of places, ranging from the "Molly-houses" of 18th-century London, in which heretical sexualities were enacted, to the lodges of impoverished Montreal tailors where they practiced their sociability in the 19th century and the communal sites of political ferment in working-class neighborhoods of Paris and New York in the early 20th century. Ranging from European and Salem witchcraft trials to Jac k Kerouac's and Norman Mailer's ways of depicting "Negro" nightclub life in the 1950s, this encyclopedic volume offers an unconventional, sometimes excessively episodic, but thoroughly documented account of the social "Others" whom dominant elites alternately neglect and fear, penalize and fictionalize. Strongly recommended to all college and university libraries. K. Tololyan Wesleyan University


Publisher's Weekly Review

"The night is different, its opposition to day marked by darkness and danger... [B]ut its fears are balanced by its freedoms," begins this enthralling and important trans-historical study of the metaphoric and actual meaning of night cultures. Palmer's canvas is hugeDit ranges from an analysis of early modern witch culture (which he connects to the later development of Puritanism) to the emergence of 19th-century semisecret fraternal orders such as the Oddfellows, the vibrant 20th-century gay male cultures of drag and sadomasochism, and the emergence of a U.S. jazz and blues cultureDyet he manages to bring these diverse topics together in a cohesive and astute analysis. Integrating unusual details and artful nuances (from the specifics of 18th-century pirate executions to the links between the Rosenberg trial and the novels of Micky Spillane), Palmer creates a multilayered but seamless portrait of four centuries of Western culture. The underlying theme here is not simply that "night" offers the occasional transgressive respite from the orderly civilization of "day," but that these alternative social, political and artistic spaces are often where the impetus for social change begins. Palmer's bold theme is sustained by his ability to communicate his in-depth, far-ranging scholarship with a broad political vision, which is Marxist in origins but tempered by postmodernism, and by his accessible and highly entertaining writing style. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

According to Palmer (history, Queens Univ., Canada; Goodyear Invades the Backcountry: The Corporate Takeover of a Rural Town), the controlling social, economic, and political structures since the Middle Ages have created classes of marginalized persons that he calls "people of the night." Palmer uses the image of the night to discuss peasants, witches, prostitutes, bakers, revolutionaries, and jazz musicians, who may not always have worked at night but who existed at the edges of social control. These men and women created exciting cultures containing elements that moved into mainstream society. Palmer also applies the same metaphor to examine repression in Nazi Germany and America's treatment of blacks. While the book is fascinating reading, it is very dense and technically written and assumes a knowledge of the ideas of Karl Marx and Michel Foucault. Nevertheless, it is well worth the effort and nicely complements Stephen J. Pfohl's Images of Deviance and Social Control (McGraw-Hill, 1994). For academic and larger public libraries. Stephen L. Hupp, Urbana Univ., OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

Palmer (Queen's Univ., Canada) is a social historian who has written an unusual work of historical scholarship, a highly readable yet deeply learned history: there are 127 pages of single-spaced notes to 458 pages of text. The author explores "cultures of darkness" and "histories of the night" from the late medieval period to the 1992 Rodney King riots of Los Angeles. The "night" in question is not only the time that follows day when oppressed transgressors, ranging from prostitutes to thieves, are at work, but also a geographic and social space. "Space" encompasses an extraordinary variety of places, ranging from the "Molly-houses" of 18th-century London, in which heretical sexualities were enacted, to the lodges of impoverished Montreal tailors where they practiced their sociability in the 19th century and the communal sites of political ferment in working-class neighborhoods of Paris and New York in the early 20th century. Ranging from European and Salem witchcraft trials to Jac k Kerouac's and Norman Mailer's ways of depicting "Negro" nightclub life in the 1950s, this encyclopedic volume offers an unconventional, sometimes excessively episodic, but thoroughly documented account of the social "Others" whom dominant elites alternately neglect and fear, penalize and fictionalize. Strongly recommended to all college and university libraries. K. Tololyan Wesleyan University


Table of Contents

List of Figuresp. viii
Acknowledgementsp. x
Introductionp. 1
Part I An Overview
1 A Walk on the Dark Side: The Metaphorical Nightp. 13
Part II Class and Gender in the Dissolution: of the Ancien Regime
2 Blood, Bread, and Blasphemy: Peasant Nightsp. 23
3 Witches: Europe and Americap. 49
Part III Marginality and the Age of Revolution
4 Libertines, Licentiousness, and Liberty: The Underworld of Pornography's Political Beginningsp. 71
5 Conspiracies of the Night: Anglo-French Radicalism, Jacobinism, and the Age of Revolutionp. 93
6 Monsters of the Night: Historicizing Fantasyp. 117
Part IV Exchange Relations, Empire's Underside, and Early Capitalism
7 Productions of the Night: Dark and Dangerous Laborsp. 139
8 Dark Continents: Empire and Racep. 162
9 In the Shadow of Empire: Pirates and Maroonsp. 182
Part V The Transforming Power of Capital
10 Sociabilities of the Night: Fraternalism and the Tavernp. 209
11 Nights of the Bomb Throwers: The Dangerous Classes Become Dangerousp. 232
12 Working for the Devil: Dark Dimensions of Exploitationp. 257
Part VI Eroticism and Revolutions: The Pleasures and Dangers of Difference
13 Nights of Leather and Lace: Transgressive Sexualitiesp. 277
14 Festivals of Revolution: Light Out of Darkp. 302
15 Decade of Darkness: The Fascist Nightp. 322
Part VII Making Cultures in the Heart of Capitalist Commodification
16 Blues, Jazz, and Jookin': Nights of Soul and Swingp. 343
17 A Walk on the Wild Side: Bohemia and the Beatsp. 370
18 Noir: The Cultural Politics of Darknessp. 387
Part VIII Race and Capitalist Crisis
19 Nights of Accumulation: Banditry, Mafias, and the Contemporary Spirit of Capitalismp. 405
20 The Implosion of the City: Nights of Race Rage and Riotp. 425
Part IX Conclusion
21 Dark Cultures and the Politics of Transgression/Transformationp. 453
Notesp. 459
Indexp. 588
List of Figuresp. viii
Acknowledgementsp. x
Introductionp. 1
Part I An Overview
1 A Walk on the Dark Side: The Metaphorical Nightp. 13
Part II Class and Gender in the Dissolution: of the Ancien Regime
2 Blood, Bread, and Blasphemy: Peasant Nightsp. 23
3 Witches: Europe and Americap. 49
Part III Marginality and the Age of Revolution
4 Libertines, Licentiousness, and Liberty: The Underworld of Pornography's Political Beginningsp. 71
5 Conspiracies of the Night: Anglo-French Radicalism, Jacobinism, and the Age of Revolutionp. 93
6 Monsters of the Night: Historicizing Fantasyp. 117
Part IV Exchange Relations, Empire's Underside, and Early Capitalism
7 Productions of the Night: Dark and Dangerous Laborsp. 139
8 Dark Continents: Empire and Racep. 162
9 In the Shadow of Empire: Pirates and Maroonsp. 182
Part V The Transforming Power of Capital
10 Sociabilities of the Night: Fraternalism and the Tavernp. 209
11 Nights of the Bomb Throwers: The Dangerous Classes Become Dangerousp. 232
12 Working for the Devil: Dark Dimensions of Exploitationp. 257
Part VI Eroticism and Revolutions: The Pleasures and Dangers of Difference
13 Nights of Leather and Lace: Transgressive Sexualitiesp. 277
14 Festivals of Revolution: Light Out of Darkp. 302
15 Decade of Darkness: The Fascist Nightp. 322
Part VII Making Cultures in the Heart of Capitalist Commodification
16 Blues, Jazz, and Jookin': Nights of Soul and Swingp. 343
17 A Walk on the Wild Side: Bohemia and the Beatsp. 370
18 Noir: The Cultural Politics of Darknessp. 387
Part VIII Race and Capitalist Crisis
19 Nights of Accumulation: Banditry, Mafias, and the Contemporary Spirit of Capitalismp. 405
20 The Implosion of the City: Nights of Race Rage and Riotp. 425
Part IX Conclusion
21 Dark Cultures and the Politics of Transgression/Transformationp. 453
Notesp. 459
Indexp. 588

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