Sue Tuohy

Sue Tuohy

Senior Lecturer Emerita, Folklore and Ethnomusicology



  • Ph.D., Indiana University, 1998

About Sue Tuohy

During her thirty-two years as a faculty member at Indiana University, Sue Tuohy has excelled in mentoring students, researching musical manifestations of culture in China, and serving the university locally and internationally in myriad ways. Her colleagues employ words like “generous,” “dedicated,” and “kind” to capture Sue Tuohy’s approach to her life. They observe that she has passionately devoted her career to the people around the globe with whom she has come in contact and to the ideas that she has researched.

Sue Tuohy completed the B.M. in Music History and Piano (1978) as well as the M.M. in Music History degree (1983) at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. She received the M.A. degree in Folklore and Ethnomusicology (1981) as well as a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Folklore and Ethnomusicology with a double minor in East Asian Languages and Cultures and Chinese Language and Literature (1988) from Indiana University.

She worked tirelessly to train students in the emerging field of ethnomusicology, teaching ethnographic methods, theoretical orientations, and the intellectual history of the field. She was equally adept at teaching about music and political movements, music in tourism and cultural heritage, Chinese film music, cultural diversity in China, music and place, and more recently, sound studies and ecomusicology.

Sue Tuohy offered undergraduate as well as graduate level classes that ranged from several hundred members to more specialized seminars of a few students. She prepared meticulously and regularly spent hours with students individually to help them achieve their very best work. She has co-chaired more than 30 Ph.D. dissertations and has served as a member for an additional 70 graduate students where she helped students perfect their research and writing. This excellence in teaching has been recognized with the IU Trustees Teaching Award on four different occasions (1997, 2001, 2004, 2009).

When Sue Tuohy began her field research in Qinghai and Gansu provinces of China in 1983, the country was just opening up after the Cultural Revolution. Professor Tuohy gained fluency in reading and writing Chinese while attending Nankai University in Tianjin. She conducted in-depth and long-term research into musical life of Northwest China from 1983-1985. She delved into a broad range of social and artistic subjects from the policy level to the more specific performance details of hua’er folksongs. She included the historical sweep as well as the current moment in her purview, and over the years Sue Tuohy has built on that knowledge by returning to conduct ethnographic research, teach, and consult on the development of ethnomusicology programs in China, where she frequently lectures in Chinese. She also frequently includes Chinese-language scholarship in her research. She focused on cultural and natural heritage programs, tourism and festivals, and environmental and cultural preservation projects in many locations across China from 1990-2019. Science and technology in China was the focus of her work in 2008.

On a number of occasions Sue Tuohy has been invited to deliver keynote lectures, which she sometimes offered in Chinese. The titles of those keynotes include “The Longer History of Intangible Culture Heritage in China: The Case of Northwest Hua’er Folksong,” “Cultural Tourism at the Intersections of Folklore and Heritage,” and “Publics and Networks: Discourse, Circulation and Power,” among others.

Sue Tuohy has acted as a co-organizer of the Diverse Environmentalisms Research Team (DERT), a collaborative project involving research, pedagogy, a symposium, and published book. In addition, she has served as consultant to the Smithsonian Office of Folklife and Cultural Heritage for the 2014 Folk Festival as well as a consultant to the Indianapolis Museum of Art for a project on the arts of Qinghai Province in 1992-1994. She also has served as a board member of academic societies such as the Association for Chinese Music Research, CHINOPERL Papers, the Forum for Ethnic and Folk Cultures, and the Society for Asian Music.

Among Sue Tuohy’s most cited articles are “Cultural Metaphors and Reasoning: Folklore Scholarship and Ideology in Contemporary China” (1991), “The Social Life of Genre: The Dynamics of Folksong in China” (1999), “Metropolitan Sound: Chinese Film Music of the 1930s” (1999), “The Sonic Dimensions of Nationalism in Modern China: Musical Representation and Transformation” (2001), “The Choices and Challenges of Local Distinction: Regional Attachments and Dialect in Chinese Music” (2003), “Reflexive Cinema: Reflecting on and Representing the World of Chinese Film and Music” (2008), and “Collecting Flowers, Defining a Genre: Zhang Yaxiong and the Anthology of Hua’er Folksongs” (2018). These titles demonstrate the broad reach of Sue Tuohy’s research imagination and writing efforts.

Sue Tuohy’s deep commitment to her students, colleagues, Indiana University, and a number of institutions in the US and China will be missed. She may find more time, however, to tend her carefully cultivated garden, which she has developed over the years, while she continues to write and to conduct research in China.

-Ruth M. Stone and Daniel B. Reed

Awards & Distinctions

  • IU Trustee Teaching Award (2009, 2004, 2001)
  • IU Teaching Excellence Recognition Award (1997)
  • IU-Nankai University Faculty Exchange Research Fellowship (1995)
  • Travel Grant, National Endowment for the Humanities, for research in China (1993)