Mason, Kaley

Over the 2010-2011 academic year I was privileged to be able to concentrate on several writing projects as a faculty fellow at the Franke Institute for the Humanities. Although I spent much of the fall finishing a chapter on musicians and the politics of dignity for an edited volume on the history of world music (Cambridge University Press), most of the year I focused on completing the manuscript for my first book, The Labor of Music: South Indian Performers and Cultural Mobility, which examines how low-status Indian performers harnessed the sacred power of ritual music as a force for social change. I also worked with a Chicago-based Bengali tabla artist to study issues of Indian musical labor and the global city. I presented some of this ethnographic material at a symposium in Kolkata last March, during which time I also visited the village where the tabla artist began his career in rural West Bengal, a move that deepened my understanding of what it takes for working-class musicians to forge successful careers abroad in metropolitan centers like Chicago. Finally, I devoted some time in the spring quarter to developing ideas for a second book called Sound Masala: Vernacular Cosmopolitanism in South Indian Popular Music. This project traces how migration patterns, radical socialism, and religious pluralism contributed to a regionally specific cosmopolitan music scene stretching from Southwestern India to multiple diasporas in Chicago and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. Next year I look forward to teaching in the study abroad program for the College in Pune, and to hosting a special series of short-term artists in residence aimed at boosting the profile of South Asian performing arts on campus.

Comments are closed