Black Banjo Bodylands: Recovering an African-American Instrument


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Innovation Fellowships


Folklore and Ethnomusicology


Since the 2005 Black Banjo Gathering, the Carolina Chocolate Drops have been catalysts for the Black banjo renaissance. After their dissolution, Black-centered modalities for developing Black banjo community have emerged. This project indexes the relationships and simultaneous co-constructions of banjos, the Black bodies that activate them as spiritual technology, and the lands across/through/on which these entities exist. It explores the material and spiritual scope of contemporary banjo bodylands by weaving together ethnography, public programming, banjo building, and music performance. The intervention of music performance as scholarship acts as a spiritual offering to continue future-looking work with ancestral voices and the living Black banjo community. At the intersection of Ethnomusicology and Black studies, the project is collective and multidimensional in its imagining of new territory for Black banjo bodylands amidst historic co-optation of the instrument.