Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Renoir and Slumming - Thinking Allowed

BBC's Thinking Allowed had its program last week entirely dedicated to Slumming. This is the term for upper and middle class white, mostly men, mingle with the lower class, mostly colored women in the jazz scene of the US during the early twentieth century.

The guests on the program make clear how this has created a kind of openness between the races and classes as well paved the way for new developments in culture, mostly music. Yet, the indignation of class difference still was strongly playing its role. The phenomenon was dealt with as a purely American one, but I thought of Paris.

I thought of Paris, thanks to the podfaded Art History lectures by William Bryson in 2008 (UCSD) - Formations of Modern Art. Also in Paris there was the phenomenon upper class men went for their leisure to the lower class areas and mingled with, mostly, lower class women. This has been made visible most notably by the painter Renoir. In Renoir's vision, these are scenes of great joy, but what joy is that? Just like with slumming, it is cheap entertainment for the men and a chance of social mobility for the women. The double entendre is inevitable.

More Thinking Allowed:
Mizrahi Jews,
The weekly social science stop,
Substance and Sociology,
Hole in the Wall,
Moral relativism.
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