George Lewis' Special Interests
One day in graduate school, a light bulb went off. Busy studying traditional sociology in class while--in the late 1960's--huge social and cultural changes were swirling whenever I stepped out of the classroom, I wondered--shouldn't there be a connection here? Bob Dylan was singing about something happening, but you don't know what it is, do you? To seek the answer, I decided to take my sociology to the street--what was being said in everyday culture, and why was it important? I began my investigations by taking a closer look at what Dylan himself was saying, and what social and cultural impacts this might be having. The result was my first published essay, "Mixed Up Confusion, "researched and written while I was in graduate school.
Since that time, I have continued researching the impacts and meanings of culture. I have studied the use of music (and dance) as political tools and agents of social change in the Hawaiian community; I have looked at the expression and dissemination of traditional American values in country music as it has been created in Nashville; I have researched the critical place food plays in the equations of self and group identity, And most recently, I have been examining the way culture both reflects and creates regional identity by studying these cultural processes close to home here in California's Great Central Valley.
I am currently in the process of pulling together many of my disparate musical interests and studies in a book tentatively entitled: Mistaking Paradise: The Invention of Identity and Place in Popular Music.