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date: 04 December 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the ramifications of musical improvisation for understanding self and other. It argues that contemporary cultural theory is over-invested in Hegelian notions of the self as created through the field of the other and the concomitant emphasis on “recognition” as the central factor in the construction of the subject. This emphasis on recognition is, in part, installed through the theory of performativity. The article illuminates problems with this theory and then offers an alternative theory, the “improvisative,” that focuses on “generosity” rather than “recognition.” It argues that the practice of the improvisative may offer a better approach to effecting human agency than the performative. An examination of the improvisative practices of middle and high school age girls at the Girls’ Jazz and Blues Camp in Berkeley, California demonstrates this effectiveness.

Keywords: improvisative, performative, self-identity, other-identity, improvisation, subjectivity, Hegel, Butler, agency

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