UC Students, Faculty Present at Virtual 2020 SEM Annual Meeting


Every year, the Society for Ethnomusicology convenes more than 900 scholars, educators, students, musicians, activists, curators, and more from across the U.S. and the world for an to share the latest ethnomusicological research. Though, like many things this year, the 2020 Annual Meeting could not be held in person, a new virtual formulation will bring together dozens of presenters in an online format, including 15 current students and faculty from the University of Chicago.

With presentations and discussions engaging in topics including age and disability, politics of music, aesthetics of migration, racial erasure and white supremacy in music, and more, UC students and faculty exhibit the range of interdisciplinary scholarship and inquiry that is a hallmark of the Department of Music. View the schedule of UC-affiliated presentations below, and join the University of Chicago Department of Music at SEM 2020.

Presenters: Assistant Professor Jessica Baker, Chris Batterman Cháirez, Jon Bullock, Tomal Hossain, Associate Professor Travis Jackson, Hannah Judd, Erol Koymen, Ailsa Lipscombe, Joseph Maurer, Emily Williams Roberts, Jacob Secor, Rina Sugawara, Laura Turner, David Wilson, Benjamin Wong

Thursday, October 22, 10:00 – 11:30 am – Music Making in Publics and Communities

10:30 am – “I Knew a Banjo Player Once...”: Identity and Disability among Aging Bluegrass Musicians

Emily Williams Roberts, University of Chicago

According to Sami Linton (1998), “Any of us who identify as “nondisabled” must know that our self-designation is inevitably temporary” (p. viii). As aging leads to disability, the majority of older adults could be considered to have, in some fashion, a disability. Due to the large percentage of aging adults remaining active in bluegrass jam sessions through the transition between abled and disabled designation, disability and accommodation are common. However, I have also come to realize that many of these musicians do not self-identify as having disabilities, despite acknowledging their impairments. Specifically, when asked about the role of disability in the genre, some musicians will proceed to talk about someone else who either was born with a disability or acquired a disability while young, rather than acknowledge their own impairment. Therefore, as musicians within jam sessions age and acquire disabilities, both social and musical dynamics of the jam change to accommodate for these needs, aligning themselves with the social model of disability while resisting disability as an identity category. By engaging with aging musicians from East Texas and East Tennessee that actively participate in bluegrass jam sessions through ethnographic interviews and observation, I analyze the relationship between accommodation and identity within the jam session. I demonstrate how this understanding of impairment and disability influences what I have termed as a participatory model of accommodation and, further, shifts the role of accommodation from “making up for” an impairment to creating inclusion for diverse bodies.


Thursday, 2:00 – 4:00 pm – Roundtable: (Re)Positioning the Caribbean: Practical and Theoretical Issues in Caribbean Ethnomusicology

Chair: Jessica Baker, Assistant Professor, University of Chicago

In a special edition of Small Axe, Silvio Torres Saillant notes that the hispanophone Caribbean “exists at the juncture of two competing cultural contexts, the Caribbean on one side and the Latin American on the other, which has historically exposed it to the danger of misrecognition from both flanks.” Because colonial projects divided the Americas into language blocs, contemporary Caribbean music scholarship stills functions within these linguistic silos, which positions the entire region at the intersection of many competing historical, geographical, racial, and institutional contexts. To further complicate the parameters of regional study of the Caribbean, many college and university centers and departments supporting scholarly engagement with the Caribbean do so through a combined emphasis on Latin America and the Caribbean as overlapping though not coterminous concepts where the latter is often subsumed by and ancillary to the former. This panel will offer a critical discussion about navigating the terrain between and across these interlaced practical and theoretical contexts within Caribbean ethnomusicology. Full, Associate, and Assistant Ethnomusicology professors from North America and the Caribbean working within various configurations of Caribbean/Latin American/Africana/Black Studies institutional “homes” will discuss issues attendant to critical Caribbean ethnomusicology, including implications for student mentorship, lack of funding opportunities, and research methods. As scholars focused on the French, Spanish, and English-speaking Caribbean, the participants in this roundtable will begin to chart a course of action for working across language barriers and flanked contexts in service of a robust recognition of the internal and multi-layered diversity of the region.


Saturday, October 24, 10:00 – 11:30 am – Nation and Nationalism

10:00 am – Staging the Nation on the Tarmac: Sounding Racial Ideologies in New Zealand's Tourist State

Jacob Secor, University of Chicago

This paper critically examines the political economic implications of mobilizing blackness via hip hop aesthetics on Air New Zealand’s longstanding line of high budget safety videos. In particular, it looks at “It’s Kiwi Safety” (2018), a multimillion dollar venture which features over 600 cast members and was designed to “showcase... Kiwi culture to the world.” The video, which remixes Run DMC’s “It’s Tricky” (1986), has received wide controversy for its use of rapping, as it obfuscates necessary safety instructions. Looking past that safety hazard, this paper problematizes the video’s claims to cultural authority. I take claims like “it’s Kiwi to rock a rhyme” as serious, though parodic, commentaries on national identity. Much writing on the Black Pacific has shown the ways in which indigenous peoples of Oceania have musically related to racialized experiences of the Black Atlantic (Solis 2014). Alternatively, this paper argues that “It’s Kiwi Safety” de-ethnicizes black musical aesthetics, flattening what Robbie Shilliam (2015) has termed the “anti-colonial science of deep relation” towards a nationalist agenda of rooted cosmopolitanism (Appiah 1998). As such, I see these phenomena as performative enactments of New Zealand’s “tourist state” (Werry 2011), conjuring the nation as a self-determined leisure zone, free from the blight of racial unease. I examine this confluence of nationalism, touristic branding, and parody by taking the safety video as a site of ideological work (Gal and Irvine 2019), which produces competing claims to cultural authority, national identity, and musical aesthetics.


Saturday, October 24, 10:00 – 11:30 am – Ethnomusicology of the Third Sector: Engaging with Music and Nonprofits of the World

Chair: Joseph Maurer, University of Chicago

The proliferation of nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) since the middle of the 20th century (Iriye 1999) has shaped society as they take on social and cultural organizing roles that might otherwise be filled by private or governmental actors. Sociologists have examined the distinctive features and effects of organizations in this sector, including with regard to music and other art forms (DiMaggio and Anheier 1990; DiMaggio 2006). Many ethnomusicologists also operate within this sector, studying such organizations or collaborating with them during fieldwork. Despite the growing prevalence of such work, there has been relatively little discussion and publication that speaks explicitly about the methodological and analytical strategies and considerations that are distinctive to working with such organizations, or about the systematic effects that such organizations are having on music making. In an effort to articulate and respond to these needs, this panel uses three ethnographic case studies to carve out space within the discipline for an “ethnomusicology of the third sector.” The first paper discusses the involvement of musicians and I/NGOs in promoting development through “green capitalism.” The second paper considers how Cambodian musicians and dancers respond to, nuance, and challenge dominant NGO discourses and practices. The third paper examines nonprofits in Chicago that teach immigrant musical traditions, analyzing their structural effects on the city. Together, these three papers ask scholars of music to consider the significance of NGOs as a distinctive sector with increasing influence over musical activity in the twenty-first century.


11:00 am Nonprofit Organizations, Music, and Heritage in Immigrant Chicago

Joseph Maurer, University of Chicago

Several hundred nonprofit organizations in Chicago offer some form of music education to the city’s young people. The musics taught by these organizations vary in style, including European classical music, jazz, contemporary choral repertoire, and many varieties of popular music. Roughly twenty organizations focus on traditional musical styles drawn from Chicago’s immigrant communities; typically these nonprofits were created by immigrants or the children of immigrants. This paper examines the growth, constituencies, and pedagogical practices of three such organizations: a mariachi academy, a Mexican guitar school focused on folkloric sones, and a Korean p’ungmul program. Based on eighteen months of fieldwork with students, teachers, parents, and administrators, this paper synthesizes these three case studies into a broader argument about the ways that nonprofit organizations are changing the nature of music-making and learning for children and grandchildren of the post-1965 U.S. immigration boom. The paper argues that this shift of immigrant youth musical activity from the private sphere to the nonprofit sphere has expanded the youth development possibilities available to teachers and community organizers and created greater potential for cross-cultural musical collaboration between young people. This argument builds on prior music scholarship examining multicultural education (Anderson and Campbell 1996; Bradley 2006), culturally responsive pedagogy (Kelly-McHale and Abril 2015), and Chicago’s music education sector (McBride 2015), as well as sociological and American Studies scholarship on the broader phenomenon of nonprofit proliferation in the U.S. (DiMaggio and Anheier 1990; INCITE! 2017).


Sunday, October 25, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm – Music and the Global Migration Crisis: Interrogations of Identity, Space, and Mobility

The escalation of migration to a state of global crisis has become particularly salient in the recent decade. A 2019 study by the United Nations Human Rights Council registered over 70 million forcibly displaced persons affected by the refugee crisis in Europe alone since 2015, many of whom still live in precarious conditions. Moreover, the ongoing border conflicts and contestation of immigration policies in the Americas and South Asia further unsettle the conditions of citizenship: Who is a migrant? Where do migrants belong? How does migrant-hood manifest in music and sound? By recognizing music and sound as integral to the politics of migration, this panel engages the crisis of global migration as a moral imperative of music scholarship. Consequently, we develop prior musicological discourses that attend to issues of mobility and belonging to critically examine the aesthetics of migration. We discuss the ways in which music and sound participate in the lives of migrants, spaces of migration, and acts of migrating. In so doing, this panel elucidates the crossroads between musicology and migration studies. We consider how migrant-hood is inherited through expressive artifacts, how sound challenges the ideals of citizenship across restricted border spaces, and how displacement generates collectivity in song. Through the platform of a panel discussion, we hope to open productive avenues for further study of sounds implicated in displacement, border politics, impediments in mobility, and the moral and ethical implications of migrant-hood.


Inheriting Migrant Status and Japanese/Hawaiian Folksongs, “Holehole Bushi”

Rina Sugawara, University of Chicago

Holehole bushi are sugarcane plantation labor songs by migrants who moved from Japan to Hawai`i between 1885 and 1924. These songs have come to signify a migrant heritage ever since Harry Urata, a Hawai`i-based musician, recorded the singing voices of surviving migrants. Critical questions are raised, however, through recent commercialization and advertisement of holehole bushi as “world music”, “J- pop”, and “lament song”: Whose identity and history does holehole bushi reflect? When does Japanese-immigrant identity become Hawai’ian-American history? Laura Kina is a Chicago-based scholar who engages these questions through painting. She is a self- proclaimed hapa [partial Asian or Pacific Islander descent] and Yonsei Uchinanchu [fourth-generation Okinawan] whose great-grandfather migrated from Okinawa to Hawai`i to become a sugarcane plantation laborer. Kina has a complicated relationship to holehole bushi, since there are no verses in the Uchinanchu language--the language was banned following the Japanese annexation of Okinawa in 1879. Yet, she was commissioned to paint the cover of the only monograph about these songs: Franklin Odo’s Voices from the Canefields (2013). As such, I argue that her painting is the paradoxical site at which the inaudibility of Okinawan-Hawai’ian voices and the invisibility of markedly Okinawan features are audible and visible in their exclusion. Kina performs the necessary labor of uncovering acts of erasure and conversely, survival, to inherit her migrant status. Through archival and ethnographic work, I ponder the responsibilities that accompany the inheritance of migrant statuses and artifacts of migrant heritage.

Sound and Border Politics: K-pop at the Korean Demilitarized Zone

Benjamin Wong, University of Chicago

Borders are complex mental and physical constructions. While commonly conceived of as markers that delineate geographical boundaries, borders are also the sites that regulate the movement of bodies across territories. I argue that sound problematizes the regulatory power of borders in its ability to circumvent the control of sight. Fundamental to this is what I posit as the “porosity” of sound: its ability to travel unhindered through spaces and its capacity to be imbued with undertones that are distinct from its original purpose or message. I contextualize these claims by reflecting on the use of loudspeakers at the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Loudspeakers have been a longstanding feature along multiple locations of the border since the 1960’s and have been utilized by both North and South Korea intermittently to broadcast propagandistic messages. Via Steve Goodman and Steven Feld, I focus on South Korea’s broadcasts of Korean pop music (K-pop) across the restricted space of the DMZ as a means of sonic incursion, one that incited a successful case of defection in November 2017. I speculate the psychological valences of K-pop that had spurred the defector to not only physically confront geopolitical boundaries, but also contest the state’s ideological provisos for citizenship and nationhood. From a broader perspective, I explore a possible avenue where K-pop unsettles the issues surrounding border politics. Specifically, in its ability--precisely as sound--to expose the palimpsestic emotional and affective states of the communities directly implicated by the forces of segregation.

Collectivity in the Global Circuit of Rohingya “Tarana” Song

Tomal Hossain, University of Chicago

Displacement finds varying sonic manifestations among subaltern and refugee groups. For some, the timbre of a single instrument signals home more than anything. In other cases, communitas heavily depends on the legacies of individual songwriters. In this regard, Rohingya tarana--songs expressing the grief and aspirations of the Rohingya diaspora--presents a peculiarity. Unlike conventional musical genres, Rohingya tarana has no standard canon, performance culture, or place of origin. Furthermore, it does not presuppose any single language, instrumentation, or song form. What is essential to tarana, however, is a first person plural point of view--one sings not of my home or my pain but rather our home and our pain. The form and function of such intimate expression modulates significantly in accordance with whom it addresses, e.g. collective remembrance among a Rohingya ingroup, collective advocacy directed at non-Rohingya sympathizers, or prayer to God. Drawing on my conversations and musical collaborations with Rohingya refugees in Chicago, this paper treats the collective nature of intimate expression in tarana as a case for how displacement generates collectivity among the displaced. I focus my discussion on questions of stance, audience, and genre. I contend that tarana offers fertile ground to conceive of genre as a “global circuit” (Jones, 2016). Specifically, tarana can be viewed as vernacular instantiations of a globally circulating modality of diasporic song rather than any particular musical style or repertoire. The liminality of tarana as a musical genre can thus be seen to parallel the displacement of Rohingyas.


Sunday, October 25, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm – Sounding (Un)Well: Kripping Discourses of Sound, Space, and Music

10:30 am – When Silence is Heard: Embodied Listening in Medical Facilities’ Competing Sonic Epistemes

Ailsa Lipscombe, University of Chicago

The sonic ecologies of medical facilities are marked by contradictory frames of interpretation and knowledge. For some, the symphony of mechanical alarms inspires a familiar choreography of responses and affects. For others, its aural profile is nothing but “sonic trash” (Beckerman 2014; 2019). Running in parallel to these contending definitions of sound are considerations of silence: as something to be sought out, desired, or even resisted. Indeed, hospital discourses frequently juxtapose the “bad” noises of medical environments with “good” silence (Lischer 2013; Rice 2013). Silence becomes valorized as the ideal sonic experience for all, inspiring protocols that seek to minimize and eliminate harmful sounds (WHO 2015). And yet, this pursuit of silence fails to account for the varying sonic epistemes that resound within medical facilities. In this paper, I draw on ethnographic work conducted in Chicagoland hospitals to consider the dynamic ways sound and silence are heard by patients, practitioners, and visitors. To do so, I bring together Sound Studies’ interest in acoustemological resonances of and in time and space (Cusick 2017; Feld 1996) with Disability Studies’ careful attending to embodiment that resists universalizing narratives of ideal or normate experiences (Davis 2017; Hamraie 2017). I argue that designating sounds as “bad” falsely presumes a universal way of hearing that ignores bodily difference and unique histories of listening. Turning to (and tuning into) multiple sonic frames of reference, I respond by offering a model of hospital-based listening that acknowledges the potentials of sound and silence to both harm and heal.

Sunday, October 25, 2:30 – 4:00 pm – “Sounds About White”: Historical Erasure and White Affirmation

Chair: Travis A. Jackson, University of Chicago


Sunday, October 25, 2:30 – 4:00 pm – Musical Mobility and Circulation

3:30 pm – Infrastructure of the Extraordinary: Western Classical Music, Elites, and Resistance in Contemporary Istanbul

Erol Koymen, University of Chicago

Under a Bourdieuian scholarly regime, classical music in Turkey and elsewhere has been understood in terms of symbolic violence--in the case of Turkey, imposed by the secularist elite-controlled state’s Occidentalist post-colonial modernization project (Bourdieu 1984; Erol 2012). However, Turkey is leading an emergent global populism that is challenging traditional elites’ dominance (Küçük and Özselçuk 2019). At the same time, Istanbul’s classical music scene is exploding in a network of alternative, non-state spaces--particularly churches--inviting a reexamination of the relationship between aesthetics, capital, and political power (Born 2010). What is the meaning of classical music as a field of social life and cultural practice in contemporary Istanbul? Can modes of ostensibly elite cultural production be understood as modes of resistance to authoritarian populism? Drawing on extensive ethnographic fieldwork and bringing together anthropologies of infrastructure (Larkin 2013; Burchart and Höhne 2016) and elites (Pina-Cabral and de Lima 2000; Ortner 2003; Mahmud 2014), I hypothesize that Western classical music in Istanbul increasingly sounds an “infrastructure of the extraordinary”--a networked socio-material assemblage of musical sounds, spaces, historical and aesthetic meanings, urban geographies, cultural and technical capacities, and strategies shaped at the municipal and civil society level and supporting the circulation of people, symbolic capital, and affect. This paper will introduce the study of infrastructure to ethnomusicology, suggesting new ways of thinking about circulation, materiality, and urban space, recent areas of interest in music/sound studies (Hirschkind 2006; Born 2013; Harkness 2014; Atkinson 2016; Gill 2017; Frishkopf and Spinetti 2018; Llano 2018).


Thursday, October 29, 2:00 – 3:30 pm — Music and Resistance in the American Political Landscape

2:30 pm – Old-Time Music Culture as a Space of Resistance in Trump's America

Laura Turner, University of Chicago

Since the inception of Trump’s presidency, scholarship and media coverage on commercial country music and right-wing politics have proliferated--the diversity of responses has created tension among musicians, fans, and industry personnel alike. Although evading dominant media exposure, similar debates are circulating among practitioners of vernacular old-time string band musics in southern U.S. contexts. In old-time’s social spaces--festivals, workshops, jam sessions, and online--musicians and enthusiasts are fiercely discussing and (re)evaluating the music’s supposed alignment with traditional southern values; its whitewashed history; and the problematic focus on white male historic musicians. While for some practitioners these issues provide fodder for healthy debate, for others--especially musicians of color, women, and non-heteronormative or gender-conforming participants--they have real-life social implications. Based on five years of ethnographic engagement at old-time conventions and workshops across the Appalachian southeast--events that attract generationally, regionally, and (inter)nationally diverse audiences--this paper interrogates the prevailing terrain of cultural activism among scene participants. In particular, it focuses on the recently emerging movement of prominent young, left-leaning musicians who are taking bold steps to diversify old-time’s social spaces. Their aim here is to promote an inclusive, tolerant environment in these spaces while simultaneously challenging the genre’s reportorial and historical limitations. Visible at flagship annual events (for example West Virginia’s Appalachian String Band Festival) and on dedicated social media outlets, these varied acts of resistance have provoked approbation and antagonism in equal measure among scene participants.


Thursday, October 29, 2:00 – 3:30 pm – Musical Contagions, Circulations, and Ecologies of Listening to Social Media

2:30 pm – Of Gimmickry and Man: The Lick’s Circulation Through Virtual Jazz Communities

Hannah Judd, University of Chicago

In 2011, Alex Heitlinger, a senior at New England Conservatory, uploaded the video “The Lick” to YouTube. A 1:34 compilation, it excerpted different performances, from John Coltrane to Stravinsky, that each deployed the same seven-note musical riff (a “lick” in colloquial jazz terms). Heitlinger was in a Facebook group where users would post instances of the lick that they found, but his particular gathering of the videos was retweeted by Questlove and NPR and currently boasts nearly three million views. The lick’s online trajectory accelerated at the moment the video went viral. I explore the widespread digital dissemination of jokes, videos, and memes that feature the lick, suggesting that it functions as a mimetic device that users can deploy to signal both their belonging and their individuality within a larger jazz community. Recognizing the joke becomes synonymous with those who possess jazz knowledge. The lick, in its formulaic deployment within these “insider” spaces, suggests the death of improvisation, the use of a set riff over spontaneity. It becomes a calling card for performers and listeners alike to determine a legitimate participant on and offline--who gets the joke? I suggest that the lick’s online proliferation becomes a gimmick intentionally through its repetition, pointing to both the lick’s hyper-presence and how complaints about the excessive posts of the lick are themselves recycled into over- repeated jokes. In doing so, I argue that the lick serves as the basis for a study in intracommunity dynamics and specifically humor and gimmickry in identity formation.


Friday, October 30, 2:00 – 4:00 pm – Imagined as the Terrorist Personified: Anti-Muslim Racism and the Inaudibility of Muslim Experience

2:00 pm – Internalized Prejudice, Shifting Narratives: The Contemporary Erasure of Islam in Iraqi Kurdish Retellings of Music History

Jon Bullock, University of Chicago

Since 9/11, public discourse in the West has produced a general understanding of Islam as a monolithic entity devoid of vitality or complexity. For Iraqi Kurds, however, relationships with and toward Islam remain multi-faceted and varying. In addition to anti-Islamic discourse in the West, the contemporary relationships between Iraqi Kurds and Islam have been shaped by Turkish and Iranian state support for local sectarian groups; the aftermath of Anfal, Saddam Hussein’s Kurdish genocide campaign that received its name from a chapter of the Qur’an; and the continuing repercussions of the invasion of Daesh (ISIS) in 2014. Scholars have highlighted the impact of these events on nationalist discourse among Iraqi Kurds (Priest 2019), as well as increasing conversion from Islam (Szanto 2018), but how have these conflicting relationships impacted the ways local musicians and music historians interpret the role of Islam in histories of Kurdish musical practice? In this paper, I examine these questions by drawing upon close readings of contemporary Kurdish music history texts and ethnographic interviews conducted in 2019 and 2020 in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaimani. I explain how instead of highlighting the medieval Islamic “golden age” of music and culture, local practitioners have begun to trace their narratives even further back in history, highlighting the contributions of Zoroastrianism and local religious minorities such as the Kaka’is. I argue that these discursive shifts reflect in part the internalization of Western anti-Muslim rhetoric and Iraqi Kurdish attempts to ally more closely with the self-proclaimed democratic, “secular” West.


Friday, October 30, 2:00 – 4:00 pm – Musical Afterlives of Revolution: Political and Social Legacies from China's 20th Century

Chair: David Wilson, University of Chicago

China’s history of 20th-century political and social revolutions is well researched. In contrast, the long-term effect of these revolutions, especially vis-à-vis artistic practice, is less understood. This panel joins recent scholarly interest in the importance of revolutionary legacies (e.g., Li and Zhang 2016). In order to decenter discussions of revolution in favor of their legacies, we explore the effects of three revolutions on subsequent eras of artistic practice, as well as their interaction with the 20th-century’s protean global political climate. We thereby demonstrate concrete ways in which revolutionary legacies impact subsequent artistic and social practice, sometimes decades later. In the first presentation, Jiang Qing’s career in leftist theater is juxtaposed with her role as producer of Cultural Revolution-era model works, thereby exploring the legacy of the early 20th-century May Fourth movement on late-Maoist state-sponsored musics. The second paper investigates the Shanghai ballet’s 1977 tour of Canada in the context of the global Cold War. Occurring just months after the death of Mao, this tour simultaneously featured the model work The White-Haired Girl and disavowed the legacy of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), revealing the ways in which Cold War-era ideological discourses shaped global understandings of the Cultural Revolution’s legacy. The final paper considers the remarkable contemporary success of the Chinese conservatory system as a consequence of the One-Child Policy (1980-2015). As such, this final paper uses the intersecting pressures of filial duty, artistic excellence, and economic challenge to investigate the legacies of intergenerational memory and transnationalism in contemporary China.

2:30 pm – Diplomatic Dances: Ideology and Reception in the Shanghai Ballet's 1977 Canadian Tour

David Wilson, University of Chicago

In May 1977, shortly after the death of Mao and the abrupt end of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), the Shanghai Ballet embarked on a tour of Canada. Although the company’s tour featured the revolutionary classic The White-Haired Girl (白毛女, pinyin: Bái Máo Nǚ), one of the so-called “model works” (; yangbanxi), press releases to foreign media outlets disavowed the influence of revolutionary politics and the “interference of Chiang Ch’ing” (Montreal Gazette, 18.7.1977). This paper begins by placing the model works within the context of China’s unique experience of the Cold War. Helping to explain the centrality of works such as the yangbanxi during this era, historian Chen Jian argues that, contrary to previous research, ideology was the paramount concern of Cold War-era China (Chen 2001). The remainder of this paper turns to foreign and domestic reportage of the tour, one of the first artistic exchanges between China and the West following Mao’s death. As such, this tour offers a glimpse into the first attempts by both domestic arts organizations and foreign observers to grapple with the legacy of China’s Cultural Revolution. Through my focus on press coverage of this tour, I offer an important glimpse into the ways in which understandings of the Cultural Revolution’s legacy took shape in its immediate aftermath, and how these legacies fundamentally shaped global understandings of China - and its place in the world - in the final decade of the Cold War.


Individual Presentations

Resonant Assemblies: On Affect, Belonging, and the Politics of El Grito

Chris Batterman Cháirez, University of Chicago/ Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro

In October of 2019, Pilsen, a predominantly Latinx neighborhood in Chicago, hosted its annual Dia de Muertos festival. Though the event’s centerpiece was a series of mariachi performances, the small baseball field at which the event was held was soon overtaken by gritos, the signature mariachi shouts let out by both performers and audiences. On that night, the industrial hum of the city was ruptured not only by the sounds of Mexican music, but by the sounds of Mexican voices. In mariachi, el grito is a foundational aspect of the performance. For many, gritos are not just musical, but are emotive vocalizations that mark daily life for ethnic Mexican communities (Salinas 2016). Taking the emotive weight that scholars and practitioners locate in el grito as a point of departure, this paper aims to demonstrate that ethnomusicology can contribute to scholarship on sonic objects such as shouts by interrogating the social and political potentials that such expressions have when communities assemble. Herein, I propose an understanding of el grito as a performative social act that engenders and proscribes meaning to affective notions of belonging, sociality, and political solidarity. Drawing theories of affect and subjectivity (Ahmed 2004, 2006; Flatley 2009) into dialogue with Judith Butler’s performative theory of assembly (2015), I argue that, by expressing and reproducing notions of personal and communal identity, el grito as a collective action renders an affective bodily presence for ethnic Mexicans, claiming a space in a racialized political environment that is oftentimes hostile and repressive.