Texas Czech folk music and ethnic identity

Lida Dutkova-Cope


Drawing on ethnolinguistic fieldwork in the historically Czech Moravian communities of Central Texas, this article explores an intersection between the Texas Czech folk music tradition and the ‘idea’ of language projected into and reflective of the shifting definitions and historically motivated perceptions of ‘Czechness’ and ‘Moravianness’ among the second-to-fourth generation descendants of immigrants from the Moravian region of 19th century Austro-Hungarian Empire (presently a part of the Czech Republic). The cross-fertilization of the ancestral musical tradition with Texas country and western music reflects the process of ethnic redefinition among the generations of Texas Czechs. Where considerable assimilation of the Texas Czech community has eroded once distinct ethnic boundaries, and where the Texas Czech linguistic variety has lost its ground in day-to-day interactions, cultural performances of Texas Czech polka bands help reenact symbolic boundaries of the Texas Czech community in the minds of performers and their audiences and create an environment conducive to heritage language use. Texas Czech folk music thus continues to function as an effective manifestation of the Texas Czech ethnic identity.

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