My current book project, Django Generations: Hearing Ethnorace, Citizenship, and Jazz Manouche in France (University of Chicago Press, 2021), explores how ideologies of ethnoracial and national belonging are generated through musical performance and discourse. Jazz manouche is a genre named for the Manouche people (French Romanies, otherwise known as “Gypsies”) and based on the work of famed Manouche guitarist Django Reinhardt. While Manouches face frequent ethnoracial discrimination in France, they are lauded as bearers of a jazz manouche tradition that is also considered part of French national heritage. Incorporating ethnographic, archival, and performance-based research, I examine how music is used to construct divergent ethnoracial and national identities in a context where discussions of race are otherwise censured. As the first full-length ethnographic study of French jazz to be published in English, this book represents an important development in humanistic and social scientific theory on the politics of race, expressive practices, and cultural citizenship.
My publications include:
“Music That Tears You Apart: Jazz Manouche and the Qualia of Ethnorace.” 2020. Ethnomusicology 64(3): 369-393. https://www.doi.org/10.5406/ethnomusicology.64.3.0369
Through talk and performance, participants in the genre of jazz manouche articulate Manouche (French Romani/“Gypsy”) ethnoracial identities. This article takes a semiotic approach to exploring how ethnoracial differences are perceived sonically and reified through language about jazz manouche guitar technique. By analyzing interlocutors’ sensory descriptors such as power, rawness, and even the feeling of ethnoracial identity itself, this article reveals continuities between individual sonic perceptions of race and ethnicity and broader semiotic ideologies about race and ethnicity. These discourses can serve or compromise Manouche interests as they naturalize ideas about social difference.
“Genre, Ethnoracial Alterity, and the Genesis of jazz manouche.” 2019. The Journal of the American Musicological Society 72(3): 665-718. https://doi.org/10.1525/jams.2019.72.3.665
Based on the music of legendary guitarist Django Reinhardt, jazz manouche is a popular genre that emerged during the late twentieth century. This article examines the historical development of jazz manouche in relation to ideologies about ethnoracial identity in France. Jazz manouche is strongly associated with French Manouches, the subgroup of Romanies (“Gypsies”) to which Reinhardt belonged. In the decades following Reinhardt’s death in 1953, some Manouches adopted his music as a community practice. Simultaneously, critics, promoters, and activists extolled the putative ethnoracial character of this music, giving rise to the “jazz manouche” label as a cornerstone of both socially conscious and profit-generating strategies. Drawing on analysis of published criticism, archival research, and interviews, I argue that ethnoracial and generic categories can develop symbiotically, each informing and reflecting ideologies about cultural identity and its sonic expressions. Jazz manouche grew out of essentializing notions about Manouche identity, while Manouches have been racialized through reductive narratives about jazz manouche. In this case, an investigation of genre formation can inform understandings of ethnoracial identity and national belonging.
“Jazz Manouche.” With Benjamin Givan. 2019. Grove Music Online. Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/omo/9781561592630.013.90000315373
“Romani Music.” With Petra Gelbart. 2019. SAGE Encyclopedia of Music and Culture, edited by Janet L. Sturman, 1848-1850. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
“Rich Theory: Mandino Reinhardt on Jazz Manouche in Alsace.” 2018. Jazz and Culture 1: 104-121. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/jazzculture.1.2018.0104
“The Politics of ‘Understanding’: Secrecy, Language, and Manouche Song.” 2017. Ethnic and Racial Studies 40(1): 96-113. https://doi.org/10.1080/01419870.2016.1213404
This article explores how song operates as a forum through which Alsatian Manouches (a subgroup of Romanies/“Gypsies”) negotiate social relations with non-Manouches and with each other. Two of the most salient identity markers for Manouches are music and language. Whereas Manouches regard instrumental music as a legitimate means of engaging with non-Manouche people, it is often considered inappropriate to share their spoken dialect of Romani with others. As a combination of both, Manouche song represents a complex juncture of volition and apprehension towards their interactions with non-Manouches. Drawing on fieldwork among Manouche and non-Manouche performers, I investigate how public Manouche vocal performance ironically connotes an ambivalence towards cross-cultural sharing, and how power relations unfold through varying degrees of linguistic concealment and openness. This article theorizes the (il-)legibility of the voice in music and illustrates how song reflects Manouche language ideologies in flux.
“‘His soul was wandering and holy’: Employing and contesting religious terminology in Django fandom.” 2013. Popular Music and Society 36(3): 380-396. https://doi.org/10.1080/03007766.2013.798547
“You Eat What You Are: Cultivated Taste and the Pursuit of Authenticity in the Slow Food Movement.” With Charles Lindholm. 2013. In Culture of the Slow: Social Deceleration in an Accelerated World, edited by Nick Osbaldiston, 52-70. London: Palgrave.