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It gives us great pleasure to announce that two fieldwork grants have been awarded for the 2020 BFE Fieldwork Grants scheme. Hearty congratulations are due to Yara Salahiddeen and Dunya Habash, who are the 2020 grant recipients. The winners introduce their innovative research projects below, and we look forward to hearing more about their work when they return from the field.

Yara Salahiddeen (Magdalen College Oxford) - Cultural Politics of Tarab: Music and Social Change during Egypt’s Nahda

During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a vibrant cultural and intellectual movement developed across the Arab world known as the Nahda, often translated as the renaissance. My project examines the musical Nahda that transformed the soundscape of Egypt from the 1860s to the 1920s, and its connections with the period’s intense socio-political transformations. I investigate the affective and political impact of various musical forms on modern subjectivities of the time, as well as on wider discourses around the role of culture. Crucial to this soundscape was the social and musical phenomenon of tarab, which is often described as musical ecstasy but notoriously evades clear definition. I hope to clarify the aesthetic system and societal role of tarab during this period in particular. I am especially interested in the cultural semiotics that formed its practice, and how these were encoded and decoded through the sung taqtuqa and compound form of wasla.

 

Dunya Habash (St. Edmund's College Cambridge) - Syrian musicians and their 'emplacement' into Turkish society

My ethnographic research with Syrian musicians in Turkey examines the effects of ‘integration’ on music-making and more generally on Syrian cultural practices and imaginaries post-displacement. I am exploring how Syrian musicians, those who fled Syria after 2011 and settled in Turkey, place themselves and how they use music to belong to an ideational community in exile. When individuals are forced to leave their homes instead of consciously choosing to enter the diaspora, an accompanying inquiry is whether there are new constraints—be they political, economic, or social—that affect the way agents embed themselves in a new society and reconstruct their lives and identities? Rather than focusing on the ways in which Syrian music is transforming in displacement, I plan an innovative cross-disciplinary investigation of how Syrian musicians as agents embed themselves in their new homelands where changes in performance practice, physical space, and cultural norms must be accounted for. I hypothesize that the Syrian cultural imaginary is shifting as a result of ‘emplacement’ into Turkish society, and that this shift can be illustrated through musical practices. Investigating and analysing how Syrian musicians in Turkey—and displacement more generally—emplace themselves and how they use music to belong to an ideational community can give fresh insights into the relationship between structural forces and inner subjectivities.

We are delighted to announce that a total of four fieldwork grants have been awarded for the 2019 BFE Fieldwork Grant Awards scheme. We offer huge congratulations to Graihagh Cordwell, Alice Rose, Chrysi Kyratsou and Jaana Serres, who are the 2019 grant recipients. The winners introduce their exciting and diverse research projects below, and we look forward to hearing more about their work when they return from the field.

Graihagh Cordwell (St John's College Oxford)

My project focuses on the role of musical activities of Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, a camp established in 2012 as an emergency response to those fleeing the Syrian civil war, but now home to over 80,000 Syrian refugees. Notwithstanding difficult in-camp conditions, musical activities abound, ranging from private music making in the home to the digital download of music on mobile devices, and myriad music projects implemented by humanitarian organisations. My research will examine the multiple uses and functions of these musical practices and their significance for refugees in Zaatari. I also explore the place of humanitarianism and music in the camp, the advantages and implications of music projects implemented by humanitarian actors, and how those actors might provide effective and sensitive in-camp musical opportunities. More broadly, I aim to understand what music can reveal about the Syrian refugee experience and the protracted socio-cultural effects of the Syrian conflict.

 

Alice Rose (St Hilda's College Oxford)

My project focuses on the relationship between digital technologies and the production and consumption of Japanese Idol Pop, or JPop. My fieldwork will take me to the Kansai region of Japan, where I will research the online and offline practises of fans of two specific Japanese bands: NMB48 (the Namba-based sister group of the internationally famous AKB48) and Sekai No Owari, a more ‘alternative’ contemporary idol group. From online chatrooms and subscription mailing services to wotagei (ritualised chanting and dancing) and mimetic amateur performances, JPop fans exist in a hyper-technological consumer society, and yet place immense value on experiencing this music locally, tangibly and co-presently. Through this project, I hope to explore the overlap between the offline & the online, the material & the digital, and the local & the global. 

 

 

Chrysi Kyratsou (Queen's University Belfast)

My project explores the musicking that takes places in refugee reception centres in Athens, Greece. Refugee reception centres are liminal places: placed on the ground of the potentially host society, yet their residents excluded from it. They are places contested, highly informed not only by the politics implemented, but by their residents’ cultures that are brought to coexist in precariousness, and the opposing poles of stability (due to the protracted stay) and mobility.

I’m interested in understanding the meanings embedded in certain musical practices, as well as the various encounters that may take place within this context. Focusing on musicking I look at the ways refugees’ aesthetic agencies are informed by their shifting backgrounds in which they live, and how they shape their sociality. I wish to provide insights in the refugees’ interactions and shaping relationships around various forms of musicking with refugees of different cultural background, or between them and people from the host society (present and active in reception centres, as volunteers, teachers, etc.), as they are waiting for their possible relocation. I’m particularly interested in figuring out the potential for multiple inclusions that participation in musicking may entail.

 

 

 

Jaana Serres (St Anne's College Oxford)

My research looks at the Nigerian music boom that has created a new wave of positive identification with Nigeria, and the African continent generally, in the past decade. The Nigerian music industry has benefitted from the development of digital technology and the expression of corporate interest by telecom companies, retail brands, and investment funds, thus making it an exemplary manifestation of a new pan-Africanism founded on private investment, or ‘Africapitalism’. Music entrepreneurship is flourishing in Lagos, embedded in a neoliberal discourse that postulates the branded self as a force that can performatively transform its circumstances and contribute to changing Africa’s place-in-the-world. My research will examine the interplay of individual, corporate, and collective aspirations in this attempt to overcome victimising narratives via commercial artistic practices. It will hopefully expand the discussion of the commodification of African culture from the issue of authenticity and reification to questions of agency, hope, and performativity.