March 21st-Reworked Objects: The Steel Pan

Posted: March 19, 2012 by jonathansantosdts403diasporiclivesofobjects in Mar 21

This week’s readings examined the steel pan and its history and journey around the world.

Pan is We Ting” by Gage Averill traced the development of the steel pan from the West Indies to Brooklyn, New York. From this article it is evident that the steel pan and the steel pan bands were used as a way to inspire African American and Caribbean American youth by getting them involved in positive activities and avoiding gangs, drugs and violence. What I found interesting was how the author argued that the steel pan and steel pan band enables one to develop the discipline and commitment necessary to do well in school and build a sense of community. Furthermore it is evident from this article that the steel pan symbolizes West Indian cultural identity and also ethnic identity. I think that Averill did a great job in proving that the steel pan is indeed an authentic symbol as even though changing locations, the steel pan has not strayed away from its original intent.

Music from Behind the Bridge: Steel band Aesthetics and Politics in Trinidad and Tobago” by Shannon Dudley examined how the steel pan is a national cultural symbol of Trinidad and Tobago. From this article it is evident that historically, national cultural symbols, in this case, the steel pan have been politically and financially determined and shaped as opposed to chosen. In this article the author successfully provided a unique history of steel pan bands from Trinidad and Tobago. I think that Dudley did a great job in proving that the steel pan is indeed an authentic symbol of Trinidad and Tobago culture.

Brooklyn Carnival: Revitalizing Steel Pan and Ole Mas Traditions” by Ray Allen examined the evolution of the Carnival Parade in Brooklyn, New York.  The reader learns of how what was once a small gathering celebrating Trinidadian culture has transformed into a massive street parade drawing millions of people to celebrate different Caribbean culture and traditions. In this article I think that Allen did a great job in demonstrating how the steel pan strayed away from its original intent. What was once a small get together celebrating Trinidadian culture is now a parade celebrating all the differenet Caribbean cultures.


(1)   Are all national symbols politically and ethnically driven?


  1. lilzak says:

    I think all national symbols are politically and ethnically driven because the symbols would be derived from a specific identity first . Anything that help a people to strive and survive especially in a new environment can and does hold a special place in the hearts and minds of the people. Thus the symbol is a place of memory.

  2. mitsar says:

    I think that national symbols are almost always ethnically driven, although not always politically. When we think about any object in the “diaspora” we often see it as an extension of the person or group of people in whose possesion it is in. I don’t think they are always politically motivated because an object can have a sentimental value that does not necessarily have anything to do with politics.
    It makes me think back to one of the first articles we read about Palestinian objects in the diaspora. We saw the guy with the tattoo and agreed while it was politically motivated to an extent, it was probably of less sentimental value because it didn’t seem that he had a strong affinity to his Palestinian roots or a good understanding of what his tattoo meant. On the other hand someone else had a teapot from their grandmother, I think, and we saw that although the teapot meant nothing to the owner, they kept it for the sentimental value because it belonged to their grandmother.

    Whether politically or ethnically motivated, objects in the diaspora are symbolic for various reasons. The degree to which they are political or ethic varies from object to object and person to person.

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