Doctoral candidates Emilie Rook (Ethnomusicology) and Ben Barson (Jazz Studies) have been awarded Andrew W. Mellon Predoctoral Fellowships. These fellowships are awarded by the Dietrich School and provide a year of funding to pursue dissertation research.
Emilie Rook’s dissertation is titled "Complicated Centers and Powerful Peripheries: Catholicism, Music, and Identity Politics in Indonesia." She will ethnographically study institutions, people, and materials related to music in Catholic communities in Indonesia. Her focus on engaging narratives of Catholic musicians from supposedly “peripheral” Islands (Flores and North Sumatra) will serve to challenge the traditionally Java/Rome-centered understanding of power dynamics within Indonesian Catholicism.
Rook intends to spend her Mellon year writing her dissertation as well as attending and presenting at conferences on congregational music, ethnomusicology, and Asian studies, including the Christian Congregational Music: Local and Global Perspective Conference in the United Kingdom.
Ben Barson’s dissertation is titled "Can the Subaltern Sing?" and discusses the ways that early (late 19th/early 20th century) jazz cultures contested regimes of segregation and U.S. empire. By tracing the flows of migrants and music from Haiti and Cuba to 19th century New Orleans, he hopes to show how a Black Atlantic discourse of emancipation and radical equality shaped the cultures that gave birth to jazz. Conversely, he will trace how jazz music was aggressively imported into Cuba and Haiti during U.S. military occupation and economic expansion in the early 20th century, and suggest that this music fueled social movements that fought against racism and segregation.
As part of his fellowship year, Barson will do archival research at the Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University, focusing especially on oral history that is recorded there. His goal is to understand the embeddedness of early African-American jazz musicians in movements against segregation, police brutality, and international solidarity.
Congratulations to Emilie and Ben as they embark on a rewarding and productive year of research!