TALK: Decolonizing the Ethnomusicological Archive, Aaron A. Fox (Music, Columbia University)

Event Date: 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018 -
3:30pm to 5:00pm

Event Location: 

  • Library Special Collections Room
Wed Feb 21, 2018 
3:30pm - 5:00 pm
Library Special Collections Room
 
Abstract: In this paper I will offer a broad view of “repatriation” and “recovery” projects undertaken in recent years by activists and ethnomusicologists working with archives of recorded sound.  Even when such work is focused on applied goals in the present, the turn toward repatriation suggests historical critique of ethnomusicology’s longstanding interdependence with militarism and colonialism  I connect the history of recording and “collecting" Native American music in the early 20th century to the later Cold War context in which contemporary ethnographic ethnomusicology emerged in its current institutionalized form -- in part through a reification of the earlier 20th century archive as ahistorical cultural data,  I interrogate the view of sound “archives” (and the work they have done to discipline our understanding of “music”) as sites of memory and scholarship in order to stress their importance as sites of domination and resistance, suggesting  a phenomenology of the "archival recording" that assumes a history of hegemonic mediation. I advance a specific critique of “repatriation” discourse in ethnomusicology as an ethically fraught domain, however necessary.  The paper is based on 12 years of work “repatriating” recordings from the Laura Boulton Collection at Columbia University. 
 
Bio: Aaron A. Fox is Associate Professor of Music and Director of the Center for Ethnomusicology at Columbia University. In recent years Fox has focused on issues of cultural and intellectual property and the repatriation of Native American cultural resources, as part of a broader interest in cultural survival and sustainability and music-centered community activism. His current project entails work with several Indigenous communities to return and recover recordings held by Columbia University’s Center for Ethnomusicology, including collaborative work with numerous Indigenous scholar/activists.  Fox's publications on this topic include “The Archive of the Archive” in The Routledge Companion to Cultural Property (2017) and “Repatriation as Re-Animation Through Reciprocity” in The Cambridge History of World Music: Vol. 1 (North America). His book, Real Country: Music and Language in Working-Class Culture,  was published by Duke University Press in 2004.
 
Aaron A. Fox