Oberlin College and Conservatory

Aaron Fox: "Decolonizing the Ethnomusicological Archive"

Saturday, March 25, 2017 at 4:00pm to 5:30pm

David H. Stull Recital Hall
77 West College Street, Oberlin, OH 44074

Aaron A. Fox, associate professor of music and director of Center for Ethnomusicology at Columbia University, will deliver the keynote address at the Midwest Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology (MIDSEM) meeting.

His talk is entitled "Ways of Hearing: Decolonizing the Ethnomusicological Archive.” 


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.  


About Professor Fox

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 among the Inupiaq with Chie Sakakibara. assistant professor of environmental studies at Oberlin.

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). Other publications include his book, Real Country: Music and Language in Working-Class Culture, which was published by Duke University Press in 2004.

Photo Caption: Laura Boulton recording Iñupiaq singers Joe Sikvayugak and Otis Akhivgak, Barrow, Alaska 1946.

Event Type



Academic, Musicology, Environmental Studies, Administrative, Conservatory of Music


Free and open to the public

Contact Person

Jennifer Fraser

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