Faculty News

Album covers with title that reads Soundtrack of America.

Dr. Alisha Jones, an Assistant Professor in our department, contributed research to one of the most significant additions to New York City’s Cultural Landscape: The Shed. A 200,000 sq ft modular building, the Shed has commissioned more than a dozen exhibitions, performances, and lectures with the aim of presenting both well-established and emerging artists from the worlds of theater, dance, visual art, poetry, film, and classical and pop music. On April 5th of this year, filmmaker Steve McQueen presented the grand opening with the first series of concerts titled “Soundtrack of America”, which sought to create a family tree of musicians of color created with a team of academics and luminaries alike.

Dr. Jones’ year was busier still as she gave a handful of lectures throughout. She presented new research on the native Philadelphian Marian Anderson at the University of Pennsylvania Library for their annual commemoration of her life in October 2018. She also had the great honor of preaching at the Princeton University Chapel in commemoration of their 2019 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Jones additionally presented research on the ethnomusicology of womanism at McCormich Theological Seminary in Chicago, IL in commemoration of women’s history month. Lastly, this summer she will present research at Oxford University in London and the Chautauqua Institute in New York, and preach at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and at Spelman College for the 2019 Baccalaureate.

Ancient drum.

The Mathers Museum of World Cultures is currently hosting the exhibit Sacred Drums, Sacred Trees: Haiti’s Changing Climate, curated by Assistant Professor Dr. Rebecca Dirksen. The exhibit explores how humanity, the divine, and the environment intersect through the sacred Vodou drums of Haiti and the trees from which they are made, and takes a close look at the history of deforestation in the country and how that has affected material culture and sacred performance. Sacred Drums, Sacred Trees features instruments that Dirksen commissioned on behalf of the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology from master craftsman Charles Charlesine, whose drums have graced the lakou (sacred yards) of the Artibonite Valley in Haiti for the past half a century. The exhibit will be on display through December 22, 2019.

Group of faculty members.

During the Spring Semester of 2019, Dr. Rebecca Dirksen and Dr. Érica Giesbrecht, a Visiting Fulbright Scholar from Brazil, developed two brand-new tandem courses at the graduate and undergraduate levels that explored the theme of ethnographic film as a means of research in ethnomusicology. Seven graduate students and thirteen undergraduate students spent sixteen weeks discussing theoretical writings about films, watching and analyzing documentaries that have been influential to the use of film in scholarship, and practicing using film and audio equipment as well as editing software.

These courses counted on a pair of workshops on filming and editing techniques offered by award-winning local filmmaker Jacky Comforty, which were essential for the completion of this course. Between the two courses, students produced a total of twelve ethnographic short films.

They celebrated their success with a public screening at the Monroe County Public Library on May 1, with a turnout of about 60 attendees.

John. H. McDowell was a visiting professor in the Anthropology Department at UC Berkeley this spring semester. He taught classes at both the graduate and undergraduate level. While there, he also delivered the Alan Dundes Guest Lecture on March 14 titled, “Ecoperformativity: Expressive Culture at the Crux of Ecological Trauma”, which drew on his research in Colombia’s Sibundov Valley and the area around Otavalo, Ecuador; sites where indigenous peoples are using traditional expressive resources to protest invasive development projects.

Solimar Otero gave a lecture last semester based on her upcoming book, Archives of Conjure, to be published by Columbia University Press in February 2020. Her study covers over ten years of fieldwork in Cuba and archival research on Afro- Cuban spiritual practices. Otero answered questions reguarding secrecy, ethics, and archiving sensitive cultural practices, particularly in Cuban context. Professor Otero will join the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology in the Fall of 2019.