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A Feminist Ethnomusicology

A Feminist Ethnomusicology: Writings on Music and Gender

Foreword by Suzanne Cusick
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    A Feminist Ethnomusicology
    Book Description:

    One of the pioneers of gender studies in music, Ellen Koskoff edited the foundational text Women and Music in Cross Cultural Perspective, and her career evolved in tandem with the emergence and development of the field. In this intellectual memoir, Koskoff describes her journey through the maze of social history and scholarship related to her work examining the intersection of music and gender. Koskoff collects new, revised, and hard-to-find published material from the mid-1970s through 2010 to trace the evolution of ethnomusicological thinking about women, gender,and music, offering a perspective of how questions emerged and changed in those years, as well as Koskoff's reassessment of the early years and development of the field. Her goal: a personal map of the different paths to understanding she took over the decades, and how each inspired, informed, and clarified her scholarship. For example, Koskoff shows how her preference for face-to-face interactions with living people served her best in her research, and how her now-classic work within Brooklyn's Hasidic community inflamed her feminist consciousness while leading her into ethnomusicological studies. An uncommon merging of retrospective and rumination, A Feminist Ethnomusicology: Writings on Music and Gender offers a witty and disarmingly frank tour through the formative decades of the field and will be of interest to ethnomusicologists, anthropologists, scholars of the history and development of feminist thought, and those engaged in fieldwork. Includes a foreword by Suzanne Cusick framing Koskoff's career and an extensive bibliography provided by the author.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09640-2
    Subjects: Music, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)

    WithA Feminist Ethnomusicology,Ellen Koskoff has given us an intellectually eclectic, rigorously self-aware, lucidly written, and sometimes hilarious guide to how the paradoxical interdiscipline of feminist ethnomusicology has developed over the past forty years. Koskoff herself describes the book as a kind of intellectual memoir that shows the process of change in a thoroughly intersectional professional life, but I would argue that it is more like an autoethnography, for it is firmly based in her own participant observation amid the creation of a feminist ethnomusicology from multiple disciplines, conversations, and concerns over a lifetime of “face-to-face talking, laughing, listening,...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    This book resembles what some might call an intellectual memoir, in that it traces my personal journey from the early 1970s to 2012 through a maze of social history and scholarship examining music and gender. Using the wordfeministin the title immediately positions me as an inheritor of the political and ideological views of those in the 1960s and ’70s—the so-called second-wavers—who accomplished much but also left much undone; the wordethnomusicologyorients me and this research within the methodological frames of fieldwork and musical ethnography.

    As an intellectual memoir of sorts, this collection mirrors my understandings...

  7. Part I: 1976–1990

    • 1. From Women to Gender
      (pp. 13-30)

      I begin my academic journey in 1975, the year I wrote the last chapter of my dissertation on Lubavitcher music. Entitled “The Musical Experience of the Female Lubavitcher,” it was, to my knowledge, the first scholarship based on fieldwork that documented the presence of Hasidic women’s music and musical activity. That is not to say that all of my thinking or research on gender and music miraculously began there, but, rather, that this date and this writing mark my entry into the feminist literature of the day and its applications to music. After my initial “consciousness raising” in 1972 (see...

    • 2 Introduction to Women and Music in Cross-Cultural Perspective
      (pp. 31-43)

      The introduction toWomen and Music in Cross-Cultural Perspective(1987) is probably my best-known work. Certainly, it is the one most cited and quoted by others, and for many readers in the late 1980s and early’ 90s it presented the first collection of articles specifically devoted to gender, music, and (mostly) ethnomusicology. It was inspired by the wonderful papers I had heard at the second University of Michigan’s Women and Music Conference (1983), where the organizers had responded to suggestions that the focus should be wider than simply Western art musics. Many of the papers I heard there ended up...

    • 3 Both In and Between: Women’s Musical Roles in Ritual Life
      (pp. 44-56)

      “Both In and Between” continues with the comparative approach seen in chapter 2, concentrating on women’s musical performances in three very different ritual contexts: the ultra-Orthodox Lubavitcher culture I examined for my dissertation, shamanistic practices in Korea, and the Iroquois Longhouse tradition. I was, like many in the early 1990s, attempting to see if any universals existed across different gendered and musical cultures.

      Each of these three case studies seemed to present major differences in women’s and men’s social contexts, gender interactions, and resulting musical activity. In Lubavitcher culture, men’s musical activities were far more highly valued than those of...

  8. Part II: 1990–2000

    • 4 Shifting Realities
      (pp. 59-75)

      The six chapters in this part mark a change in my thinking and writing, from a predominantly comparative and theoretical approach to more of a focus on culture-specific gendered musical systems. As I grappled with postmodernism’s multivocality and positioning, I began to experience a deep ambivalence: on the one hand, I was attracted to postmodernism’s deeply compassionate focus and valorization of individual difference and multiple intersections of position; on the other, I wondered, if individual difference were to be privileged, where was room for sameness? Could one successfully and gracefully move back and forth between comparative and individual lenses and...

    • 5 Gender, Power, and Music
      (pp. 76-89)

      In the late 1980s and into the 1990s, I was still on the hunt for a usable crosscultural model to help explain what I continued to see as the nearly universal subordination of women’s musical activities. I turned again to Sherry Ortner’s work, elaborating on her theme of female intermediacy and mediation and added in the work of anthropologist Peggy Reeves Sanday (1981) on ritual power. Finally, I examined music as a source of ritual power, attempting to create a threefold nexus of women, power, and music that could accommodate cross-cultural perspectives. At the time, this seemed a useful way...

    • 6 Miriam Sings Her Song: The Self and the Other in Anthropological Discourse
      (pp. 90-104)

      This article was my first attempt to deal with the idea of multiple, simultaneous voices. And it also marked a return to my work on Lubavitcher music and gender ideologies, most clearly realized in the law ofkol isha(a woman’s voice). Here, I present three different interpretations of the same event, attempting to uncover the situated perspective of different readers. This article, its structure loosely based on that of two very different works that were inspiring to me in the 1990s—Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 film, Rashomon, depicting four different versions of a sexual encounter and murder, and...

    • 7 The Language of the Heart: Music in Lubavitcher Life
      (pp. 105-121)

      I was asked to write this article for a book examining contemporary Hasidic culture in the United States. This collection,New World Hasidim: Ethnographic Studies of Hasidic Jews in America,edited by Janet S. Belcove-Shalin, appeared in 1995 and contained perhaps the first collection of articles about Hasidic culture based on the ethnographic method of fieldwork. My article was the only one addressing music and its role in Hasidic ritual and spiritual life, and it was perhaps the first published discussion of Hasidic musical culture that integrated women’s musical practices with those of men.

      This volume strove to move the...

    • 8 When Women Play: The Relationship between Musical Instruments and Gender Style
      (pp. 122-132)

      Having for some time noticed that various accounts of women participating in musical activity did so primarily as singers and dancers, I began to wonder in the mid-1990s why this was the case. Why did so few women play musical instruments, and when they did, why did their activities seem to be so undervalued? In researching this article, I sought literature from both ethnographic and historical sources available in the 1980s and early 1990s, but the pickings were slim—only about 10 percent of the total literature I surveyed mentioned women instrumentalists. Photographs of actual women playing instruments (not artwork...

    • 9 “Well, That’s Why We Won’t Take You, Okay?”: Women, Representation, and the Myth of the Unitary Self
      (pp. 133-142)

      Having finally had my fill of the generalities of cross-cultural surveys, I jumped to the opposite pole of abstraction here, examining one small portion of a longer conversation with one of my Lubavitcher informants, Miriam Rosenblum, whom you met in chapter 6, “Miriam Sings Her Song.” I hope here to deconstruct our dialogue and uncover, as Bonnie Morris writes, “conflicting approaches to the subject of [Jewish] womanhood” (1995, 161).

      This article also marked a turning point in my thinking about gender and music more generally. First, it signaled the end of my attempts to find viable answers to questions of...

  9. Part III: 2000–2012

    • 10 Unresolved Issues
      (pp. 145-156)

      In the late 1990s, I began to feel a sense of frustration with mainstream ethnomusicology. Wonderful new monographs and anthologies were appearing, as well as countless articles documenting various gendered musical practices cross-culturally. Why, then, had this literature remained largely on the margins of the field? Why had the obvious (to me) benefits of feminist music scholarship based on fieldwork been so slow to integrate into mainstream discourses? Growing interest in new technologies, diasporas, and globalism, to name just a few shifting paradigms, seemed to lead away not only from feminist theory, but also, as in anthropology, toward a reevaluation...

    • 11 The Ins and Outs on In and Out
      (pp. 157-167)

      This article marks my first attempt to uncover what I had begun to see as underlying stumbling blocks to answering certain political questions concerning anthropology and ethnomusicology as scholarly disciplines. I continued asking myself, why had mainstream anthropology and ethnomusicology largely ignored the insights of feminist music analysis and theory and moved on instead to larger, more global, interests? What had happened to real women and men in real-life gendered musical contexts? Why had the revolutionary attempts of feminist poststructuralists to dismantle the rigidity of the selfother binary not yet completely revolutionized our ways of thinking and talking about women,...

    • 12 Out in Left Field/Left Out of the Field: Postmodern Scholarship, Feminist/Gender Studies, Musicology, and Ethnomusicology, 1990–2005
      (pp. 168-179)

      In this article, I examine the role that intellectual lineage plays in answering the question of why historical and critical musicologists seemed to publish more widely in the area of gender and music than ethnomusicologists, highlighting the major ethical issues in both fields alluded to in previous chapters. I assert here that new musicologists were in a better position in the 1990s to create a feminist theory for Western art music, and especially popular music, largely because such a theory fitted so seamlessly within already defined Western historical and cultural analytic frameworks.

      Feminist ethnomusicologists, on the other hand, primarily concerned...

    • 13 Imaginary Conversations
      (pp. 180-190)

      Today, when many young people do not know (or care much) about feminism, or see it as some historical relic, it is sometimes difficult to believe that this wonderfully energetic movement still exists. Perhaps it no longer does, at least under the namefeminism. That word, likediversity,and so many others, has picked up its baggage and moved on, no longer signifying its original meaning, now reduced to code. I am not suggesting here that we reclaim it—perhaps its usefulness as a label is over; its usefulness as a political tool for resisting and overthrowing unequal gender relations,...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 191-198)
  11. References
    (pp. 199-226)
  12. Index
    (pp. 227-237)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 238-240)