-Roundtable Panel Presentation at Annual Meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology (along with Jonathan McCollum, Ingrid Monson, Gillian Rodger, Michael Iyanaga):
Excavating the Subaltern Past: Theories and Methods in Historical Ethnomusicology
As ethnomusicologists continue to grapple with the musical legacy of hundreds of years of colonialism and imperialism, more scholars are recognizing the importance of historical research in understanding a post-colonial world. The old adage tells us that “history is written by the victors,” but twenty-first century ethnomusicologists are making efforts to uncover the voices of the subaltern, the subjugated, the marginalized, and the colonized, excavating alternative histories that complicate the received understanding of the past inscribed by prior generations of scholars. Research of this sort does not simply tell us about the past, but can have important repercussions for political and social issues in the present. This roundtable will explore the possibilities and the pitfalls of undertaking historical ethnomusicology with subaltern subjects, discussing a variety of methodologies, practicalities, and theoretical frameworks that have been utilized in recent work. Panel participants represent research on a wide range of geographic areas and socio-cultural issues, including African-American vernacular music and the Civil Rights movement, devotional song for Catholic saints in Brazil, syncretic music genres of native Hawaiians, representations of gender transgression on the American popular stage, nationalism in Japanese music education, and the music of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Each of these scholars will discuss their efforts to negotiate differences between radical postmodern subjectivities and the compelling desire to understand objective, empirical “truth.” Through these disparate case studies, the panelists will propose approaches that can help other ethnomusicologists navigate the contested terrain of history and uncover obscured perspectives and previously untold narratives.
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