MuWi Aktuell

"I Don't Think We're Safe Around You": Queering Fieldwork in Ethnomusicology

Prof. Gregory Melchor-Barz

Boston University, College of Fine Arts, School of Music

April 21, 2021, 14:00 (Online)


The issue that I consider in this presentation is the historical positionality assumed by Queer Theory within the academic discipline of Ethnomusicology and in the practice of ethnography, of engaging field research, as perhaps not not queered in the past.  An audible silence exists in ethnomusicological fieldwork practice. Queer subjects and queer topics make few appearances in ethnomusicological literature. This perceptible paucity is not due to an absence of LGBTQ-identified members and allies within the discipline. So why then has queer ethnomusicology arrived late to the dance party? Why in fact when queer theory has been around for over two decades. In the presentation, I draw on theories outlined in the recent publication, Queering the Field: Sounding Out Ethnomusicology (Oxford 2019) to underscore queer identity politics in ethnomusicology’s disciplinary practices. In my paper I raise two significant issues: first, ethnomusicology’s normalized approaches to a queered musical ethnography; and second, the sexual identities and modes of identification at play in the ethnomusicological field. My central goal is both to expand on concepts of normativity and deviance in queer theory and to identify how the fieldwork we engage in ethnomusicology might very well be inherently queer in its disciplinary deviance.