April 29, 2021
Join us tonight for a presentation from PhD student Ronit Ghosh!
“Mapping Jazz in India and India in Jazz: Improvisations and Encounters”
Abstract: Studying jazz in early twentieth century India involves tracking its myriad routes, its multiple mediations and the discursive horizons it forged and within which it operated and still operates. Even a cursory glance at the ways in which jazz has unfolded over specific locations and across boundaries firmly establishes the status of jazz as a shifting signifier, always spilling over, adapting to and in a promiscuous proximity with local genres and practices of musicking, both subsuming and reshaping not only repertoires, but also the very cultural attitudes towards what music and music-making mean. This presentation looks at the little-attended-to moments during the mid-twentieth century when American popular music rubs sonic shoulders with a plethora of other musical and performative genres within the complex soundscape of colonial modernity in India and asks whether the “Indian” in “Indian Jazz” is just an adjective, which otherwise denotes an essentially African American musical genre. To address this question, the presentation engages with the personal archives of the Chicago jazzman Roy Butler, who was among the most important and influential figures during the late-colonial jazz age in India. Engagement with the personal archives of Butler, I hope, will bring out the ways in which Indian Jazz during the late-colonial period was less an achieved form and more a result of complex financial, racial, technological, linguistic and most importantly racial negotiations of colonial metropoles in India during the 1930s. I navigate the archive as a space of consonance and dissonance, encounters and displacements, resonances and inconsistencies, all of which, I hope, will bring out the myriad twists, turns and meanderings that have punctuated the diffusion of not only jazz but more broadly Western popular musical entertainment in India. Jazz, I try to show, resides in local histories and travels of musicians and is the result of complex cultural negotiations, always occupying a space of liminality and working often as a trope that makes visible histories of migration, appropriation, globalization and diaspora.
April 22, 2021
Please join us this evening at 5:00pm CT for a presentation from U Chicago alumnus and visiting Senior Fulbright Fellow Chun-bin Chen!
Abstract: This paper aims to support and expand James Clifford’s debate on indigenous diasporas. He notes that indigenous diaspora is not a condition of exile, and a return of indigenous diasporas may take many forms. Although work with urban indigenous people has employed the concept of diaspora, the experience of those indigenous people who are living on or near ancestral lands in reduced areas (I call them “diasporas in ancestral lands”) has generally not informed diasporas discourse. The diasporas in ancestral lands discussed in this paper live in Papulu Village and belong to Pinuyumayan group, one of Taiwan’s 16 Indigenous Peoples. This village was established on a Pinuyumayan traditional territory occupied by Han settlers since the late 19th century, by a group of villagers moving out from the old Puyuma Village in the 19030s. Male age-set organizations, the men’s house and boys’ house, are a fundamental basis of Pinuyumayan social structure, but Papulu Village has not built a boys’ house since its establishment. “The Legacy,” a Papulu youth performing group established in 1998, has been partly fulfilling functions of a traditional boys’ house, through the group’s year-end door-to-door singing that initiates the village’s annual ritual and demarcates the village’s territory beyond its physical borders. Although the song and dance the Legacy performs are hybrid, incorporating Indigenous and non-Indigenous elements, through their musicking Papulu villagers experience a virtual return to their old Puyuma Village. By taking the Papulu people as an example of diasporas in ancestral lands to question the indigenous/diaspora opposition, I argue that indigenous diaspora studies not only help us better understand contemporary indigenous experiences, but also encourage us to rethink notions of home and spatial-temporal relationships in diaspora discourse.
April 15, 2021
Join us this evening at 5:00pm for a workshop presentation by PhD Candidate Hannah Rogers!
Abstract: In retrospect, Mardi Gras 2020 marked the beginning of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in New Orleans. Murmurs about the virus circulated here as elsewhere, but at the time the threat itself seemed still distant, even as thousands of visitors arrived from all parts of the country, and even from beyond its borders. Mardi Gras 2021, then, was a chance to revisit not only the city’s strategy for containing the pandemic, but also to see whether the trope of resilience so prevalent in New Orleans’ image could prevail under such circumstances. A year into the crisis, with great loss of life and wages already behind it, how would New Orleans muster the Mardi Gras spirit? In this excursus, I grapple with the silence of Mardi Gras 2021 and the limitations of the national and international mediation of New Orleans as an exceptional site of resilience.
April 8, 2021
Join us this evening for a presentation from visiting professor Dr. Sylvia Alajaji!
“Legibility and its Discontents: Reflections on the Cacophonies of the Armenian Diaspora”
This talk will serve as a meditation on what, in essence, is an epistemological question: what is Armenian music? It is a question whose ripples extend far: into the nature of Armenian identity itself and the ways Armenian subjectivity has been constructed across time and place. Central to this question is the work of the beloved Armenian composer and folklorist Komitas Vardapet (1869-1935). He is a figure who not only has come to represent the very possibility of an “Armenian music” but, through the ways he has been written about, memorialized, and made central to the Armenian musical imaginary, has come to represent the possibility of an Armenia made whole.
But what is the sound of this whole—its contours, textures, and limits? And what is the meaning of that sound for a diaspora marked by its multiplicities and its varied (dis)connections to the nation-state of Armenia? Through an engagement with the discourses surrounding the life and work of Komitas, this talk will reflect on the implications of his centrality to the Armenian musical imaginary and how, through this centrality, the Armenian diaspora is made to emerge as an entity—as a Diaspora—its cacophonies and incommensurabilities subsumed into a legible whole. In examining the implicit elisions, alignments, orientations, and histories that attend such articulations, it becomes apparent that Diaspora, with its promises of clarity, stability, and knowability, is a construction that both maintains and needs maintaining and one that finds its legibility in the expanse of the Western gaze.