Selected Course Descriptions
African Popular Music (Undergraduate Seminar in Music): This course examines the historical foundations, sociocultural contexts, and formal characteristics of twentieth- and twenty-first-century African popular music, covering a range of genres from across the continent. Drawing on a rich corpus of scholarly and popular works by anthropologists, ethnomusicologists, historians, filmmakers, and journalists, it explores African popular music genres as cultural phenomena that are complexly woven into the social fabrics of urban African locales. A major theme is the intersection of popular culture and politics on the continent. By listening to and reading about popular music, students will gain a thorough understanding of the production and mobilization of publics, and the dynamics of nationalism in modern African societies.
Arab Music Cultures (Undergraduate Seminar in Music): Arab music culture, understood as an assemblage of ideas, practices, instruments, and traditions of sounding and listening, flourishes across the Arab world and in other places where Arabs have settled. This course provides a thorough overview of Arab music culture in the contemporary world, by investigating a number of its iterations within and beyond the Middle East and North Africa. Course materials, including sound recordings and films as well as written works, situate music as a prism on other aspects of society, such as religion, nationalism, and diaspora. By engaging critically with these materials, students cultivate ways of speaking and writing about music and culture in Arab and other contexts. The course thus prepares students for further work in ethnomusicology, the study of music as culture.
Cultural Appropriation (NYUAD Undergraduate Core Course): Virtually unknown outside of academic discourse until very recently, the term cultural appropriation has become a commonplace in social and popular media, as activists and public intellectuals have highlighted what they see as problematic uses (or abuses) of cultural symbols, artifacts, or expressive modes connected to marginalized groups. But what exactly is cultural appropriation, and under what circumstances can it be said to constitute a form of exploitation or violence? This course approaches these questions both philosophically and empirically, asking, on the one hand, What is culture, and how can it be “owned” or “stolen”?, and on the other, How have practices of adopting or using culture been implicated in processes of social subjugation or marginalization? Course readings are drawn from a range of disciplines across the humanities and social sciences, including cultural anthropology, art theory, music studies, and philosophy. By engaging with a rich corpus of ideas through in-class discussions, oral presentations, and written reflections, students will develop critical perspectives on cultural appropriation as well as the broader concepts of culture, race, and ethnicity.
Space and Place in Sound and Music Studies (Graduate Seminar in Music): Sound and space are intimately and inextricably linked–perhaps especially when that sound is of the special sort we call “music.” In this seminar we will chart a path through the eclectic, multidisciplinary literature on sound and space, by isolating key spatialities that have been explored by scholars in relation to sound and music, such as the virtual, ecology, place, and circulation. We will give special emphasis to place, delving deeply into issues of music and emplacement and what Steven Feld has termed the “acoustemology of place.” Course assignments will challenge you to engage with theoretical concepts at various levels of abstraction. You will be asked to grapple with philosophical questions of sound, music, space, and place on their own terms, and then to connect these questions to more worldly concerns like climate change, gun violence, or the plight of refugees. Download Syllabus