Jessica Swanston Baker

Jessica Swanston Baker
Assistant Professor in the Department of Music; Director of Graduate Studies
Goodspeed 314
PhD, University of Pennsylvania, 2015; BM, Bucknell University, 2009
Teaching at UChicago since 2017
Research Interests: Tempo and aesthetics, coloniality, decolonization, and race/gender and respectability.

Jessica Swanston Baker is an ethnomusicologist who specializes in contemporary popular music of and in the Circum-Caribbean. Her research and critical interests include tempo and aesthetics, coloniality, decolonization, and race/gender and respectability. As a Caribbeanist, her work focuses on issues within Caribbean theory pertaining to small islands-nations such as representation and invisibility, vulnerability, and sovereignty. Her current ethnographic book project, The Aesthetics of Speed: Music and the Modern in St. Kitts and Nevis examines the relationship between tempo perception and gendered and raced legacies of colonization. Through historical and ethnographic analysis of polysemantic colloquialisms and music reception, she argues that colonial understandings of black femininity, and Enlightenment notions of musicianship frame local perceptions of wylers, a style of Kittitian-Nevisian popular music, as “too fast.” Her most recent article, “Black Like Me: Caribbean Tourism and the St. Kitts Music Festival,” takes up music tourism as a second area of research interest. This work centers on black diasporic travel between the United States and the Caribbean, and the performance and consumption of American soul music within the context of Caribbean music festivals.

Jessica holds a PhD in ethnomusicology from the University of Pennsylvania and a BM in Vocal Performance from Bucknell University. Prior to her faculty appointment at Chicago, Jessica was the 2015-16 postdoctoral fellow in Critical Caribbean Studies at Rutgers University.


"Small Islands, Large Radio: Archipelagic Listening in the Caribbean", Contemporary Archipelagic Thinking, Rowman and Littlefield, Michelle Stephens and Yolanda Martinez-San Miguel, eds (forthcoming 2020)

"Black Like Me: Caribbean Tourism and the St. Kitts Music Festival", Ethnomusicology 60, no. 2 (2016): 263-78. doi:10.5406/ethnomusicology.60.2.0263.