"To Be Made an Instrument of Feeling" is a multi-year research project that explores the various ways the Hammond B-3 organ is used in Black Churches. Though this instrument can be found in many Black Church spaces and it is considered to constitute "the sound" of the Black Church, no critical archive examining its function in Black Sacred Music exists. I intend to, in the next years, travel to various sites of primary inquiry and bring together musicians for workshop-style gatherings to explore questions of pedagogy and praxis, to explore concerns about improvisation and spirit. Drawing from my first book project and my own experiences as a Hammond B-3 musician in the Blackpentecostal tradition, "To Be Made an Instrument of Feeling" takes seriously the critical performance practices of virtuosity, sacrality and gathering with others as a means to thinking about how we inhabit the world. Throughout the 2015-16 school year, I will travel to some sites of inquiry and begin the research phase of the project.
This project is an interdisciplinary study of how attributes which might seem natural, such as the “voice” and its qualities, are actually socially produced. Drawing from African American studies, musicology, ethnomusicology, sound and voice studies, it critically examines how race is “measured” through sound, and how the authenticity of race and racial subjectivities is often located in vocal timbre. Moreover, it examines vocal icons from Marian Anderson, Billie Holiday, and Jimmy Scott to the vocal synthesis technology Vocaloid. Asking how vocal timbre is entrained and perceived through racialized listening processes, it adds dimensions to the field of identity politics, and addresses an understudied and undertheorized space of racial and ethnic performance and performativity. In doing so, it advances our knowledge of the cultural-historical formation of the timbral micropolitics of difference. More broadly, it contributes to a knowledge of the ways in which comprehending voice remains central to understanding human experience.
“Circuit Listening” will relate the sonic history of the long global 1960s from the perspective of a place that is usually dismissed as marginal to the musical revolutions of those years. I propose, in other words, to write China back into the narrative of how we hear the explosion of new popular musics for which these years are famous; and by the same token, reinsert the “global” into our sometimes hermetic sense of Chinese cultural history in those years. I foreground the crucial role of the transistor circuit, which in miniaturizing and rendering portable the production and the playback of music, facilitated new sounds, musical aesthetics, and new kinds of traffic between rural areas and rapidly industrializing cities across the fractured topography of the Chinese 1960s.
The proposed book project examines the relationship between Christian theology and modern scientific ideas about race from the time of the Enlightenment to present-day genetic research. With this long view of history this project aims to recover the overlooked yet persistent links between Christian natural philosophy and modern racial science. This study challenges the prevailing idea that the development of modern science ushered in studies of human difference that were consistently secular and freed of all traces of Christian thought. I look to argue in this book project, however, that theological assumptions about nature and human difference were carried over into modern racial science, facilitating its proliferation as a new authority on the question of human origins, yet remaining indebted to Christian discourse.
This project investigates the work of Moroccan film director Moumen Smihi to better understand the relationship between Arab cinema and the historical experiences of colonialism and modernity. In addressing Smihi’s films' rich images and narratives of colonial encounter, the project analyzes the ways in which Euro-American critical discourses have struggled to understand the relationship of Arab cultural production to a modernity that is often conceived as exclusively Euro-American. Using Smihi's films as a lens, my book rethinks those relationships, stressing long histories of mutual influence and exchange that destabilize accounts of Arab modernisms as derivative products of cultural borrowing or colonial imposition. Smihi's work offers a compelling vision of the way that cinema has animated relationships between Arab and non-Arab worlds, thus transforming the way we think about the axes of history, colonialism, nationalism, and modernity across the Middle East.
Placing Empire explores the spatial politics of empire at precisely the moment when commentators declared the death of place and distance. The Japanese government adopted tourism as a tool of state policy in the years immediately following its colonization of Taiwan in 1895. As the practice grew to encompass hundreds of thousands of travelers, colonial officials and Japanese settlers around the empire harnessed tourism as a way of challenging the spatial and social order of Japanese society.
Placing Empire argues that place became one of the most powerful tools for sustaining liberal empires in the early twentieth century. This book shows how Japanese settlers used travelogues, guidebooks, magazines, and textbooks to disseminate a new view of the Japanese nation far and wide, reformulating the original sin of colonialism into a self-evident map of geographic and cultural complementarity. Placing Empire challenges historians of empire to treat place as an argument from somewhere rather than a view from nowhere.
In 1566 a wave of Protestant iconoclasm swept through the Netherlands. Although it subsided fairly quickly, the 1566 breaking of images marked the beginning of the rise of Calvinism as the official (if not the majority) religion of the northern Netherlands. Because the Reformed Church did not permit the use of religious images, the northern Netherlands saw a drastic curtailment of church art patronage beginning in the last quarter of the sixteenth century. Deprived of ecclesiastical commissions, artists began to produce for the open market, where a largely urban burgher class bought relatively inexpensive paintings. The most popular genre of painting sold on this open market was the landscape. My project asks how the memory of iconoclasm and the persistence of iconophobia shaped the making of Dutch landscapes in the century or so after 1566.
I investigate the cultural heritage of Armenians during and after the genocide of 1915-1922, through an illuminated medieval manuscript, the Zeytun Gospels. Once a revered relic, it survives in two fragments. One fragment is at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, where the Armenian Church is suing for its return. Over the last century, the manuscript and its fragments interacted with individuals and institutions, morphing from a liturgical object, to a monument of national history, to a work of art, and to a memorial object that symbolizes both violence and resilience. This case embodies the defining elements of art history in the 21st century: the materiality of the object, the contest between communities and powerful institutions for control over cultural patrimony, the intersection of cultural heritage with civil and human rights, the impact of the global art market, and the complex ways in which objects mediate individual and group identities.