Carol Muller

"Ethnomusicological Becoming: Deep Listening and the Erotics of Fieldwork"
Mar 16, 2021 at - | Virtual Event

Carol Muller

"Ethnomusicological Becoming: Deep Listening and the Erotics of Fieldwork"

Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - 5:15pm to 7:00pm

This is a virtual
 event. Register for details.



I recently became physically aware of the profound sense of pleasure, deep joy and satisfaction I began to feel once again, doing the “work” of ethnomusicology as part of a community engagement project with American Sudanese in Philadelphia. I was once again engaging in communities, learning from, and alongside groups of people I might otherwise never have come to know living in the United States, uncovering the stories 3 and experiences of people from the new African diasporas, especially those who practice Islam. This sensory web of pleasure, joy, and satisfaction, the pull to knowledge and understanding through field research, which emerges from sharing space and listening closely and repeatedly to the words and music of our research interlocutors, is what I am calling an erotics of fieldwork, a sensibility that has profoundly shaped my sense of self as a woman in ethnomusicology. Following Audre Lorde (2007 [1984]) I locate the erotic in a place of non-patriarchal, female empowerment that comes from sharing one’s pursuits with others, knowing the open and fearless capacity for joy, never [ab]using each other as objects, and harnessing the energy within to pursue creative work and genuine social change. 


Carol Muller is a Professor of Music (ethnomusicology), who has published widely on South African music, both at home and in exile. Her intellectual interests include the relationship between music, gender and religious studies, migration and diaspora studies, and critical ethnography. Musical Echoes: South African Women Thinking in Jazz (Duke Fall 2011) with Sathima Bea Benjamin; Shembe Hymns (Univ. of KwaZulu Natal 2010); Focus: South African Music (Routledge 2008); Rituals of Fertility and the Sacrifice of Desire: Nazarite Women’s Performance in South Africa (Chicago 1999) are some of the books she has authored and edited.  Muller has published on South African jazz, religious performance, traditional and popular musics in a variety of journals that represent her interdisciplinary interests.  Since coming to Penn, her graduate students have conducted research and are teaching in several countries, including the United States. Muller has also pioneered two forms of pedagogy—in Civic Engagement (partnering with the Netter Center for Community Partnerships, see here) and online learning.  



This event is part of the Department of Music’s main Colloquium Series, which showcases new research by leading scholars in music and sound studies and composers both in the United States and internationally.  

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our 2020-2021 Penn Music Colloquium Series will be held virtually until further notice.  All Music Colloquia will take place using Zoom on Tuesdays at 5:15 PM. Registration through Eventbrite is required to receive a meeting link.