Sounding the French Empire: Colonial Ethnographies of Music and New Media, 1860-1960


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project deconstructs the aims, processes, and colonial agendas of music ethnographers in the French empire by analyzing long forgotten contributions to comparative musicology in North Africa, equatorial Africa, and Indochina. It exposes how settlers, indigenous musicians, and local administrators co-created colonial knowledge, promoting certain indigenous traditions over others in the service of political purposes through scores, recordings, and radio. Building on the work and methodologies of historians, anthropologists, linguists, race theorists, and ethnomusicologists, the project lays the foundations for a new field of inquiry by teasing out Europeans’ complex relationship to colonial culture and music’s role in the negotiation of dynamic national identities, which are still relevant today.