The Cultural Politics of Port Cities: Insights from Bristol and Rotterdam

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 17:45
Oral Presentation
Jo HAYNES, University of Bristol, United Kingdom
Pauwke BERKERS, Erasmus University, Netherlands
Rotterdam and Bristol are roughly similar sized (by population) port cities in Europe with ethnically diverse populations associated with successive migration flows. Rotterdam has been experiencing waves of protest in relation to whether aspects of its cultural traditions depict racial stereotypes (e.g. Zwarte Piet/Black Peter), occurring within the context of more visible signs of migration and an ongoing reluctance to accept its historical role in the transatlantic slave-trade. Despite this, Rotterdam has incorporated the musical and cultural diversity of its population (including migrants from Cape Verde, Antilles, Surinam, Turkey and Morocco) and has developed its reputation as a cosmopolitan city signalling the importance of cultural openness and ethnically diverse forms of creativity. Bristol, is also subjected to its own internal critique, often spearheaded by musicians and artists, regarding the city’s refusal to formally apologise for its role in the transatlantic slave trade. To this day, heritage sites, street names and key city buildings retain their nominal links to this history. In spite of this history, Bristol developed a reputation for being a city at ease with its ethnic diversity and for producing culturally syncretic music as an outcome of the exchange of musical and cultural traditions and styles between diverse musicians. Our paper will take a closer comparative look at the two musical cities and offer some further analytical insights about the past and future role that music has played in transforming the dominant narratives of these port cities.