This forum presents a conversation among seven scholars who explore the theme of discomfort in the emergent field of global music history. Prompted by Yvonne Liao and Olivia Bloechl, co-founders of the American Musicology Society’s Global Music History Study Group in 2019, these contributions address ideas of globality by decentering knowledge production and productively engage different ways to resist hegemonic pasts, narratives, and processes entrenched at home, whatever and wherever home may be. This forum thus confronts home-based challenges that resist or obstruct the implementation of this decentering principle: What does it mean to locate a “home” and to identify various “discomforts” in the global musical and sonic spheres? How does the thinking of “home” relative to “discomfort” help to theorize the concepts of agency, locality, temporality, community, regionalism, and nationality?

All seven articles share one structural feature––an extensive self-introduction in the spirit of Jessica Bissett Perea’s call for “intertribal visiting protocols” developed by critical Indigenous studies. This grounds each contribution by exposing the contingency of arguments and allows for a weaving of themes of space, boundary, and interconnection across articles. The forum’s topics range from world-making to relationality, from cripping musical taste to making Siamese music legible to colonial ears, and from listening for political taboos to problematizing “Latin American” music and theorizing intimacy through the notion of “scale” itself. Writing with candor, all contributors bring global music history into uncomfortable terrains.

Olivia Bloechl

The articles in this forum broach the practice of global music history or global musicology from a perspective of discomfort, as both a phenomenon we encounter in our work and an affective intensity that conditions our practice.1 If discomfort is an embodied disorientation, or a sense of not being at home in authoritative knowledges and norms, then it is worth paying attention to uncomfortable moments in the archives and communities we work with in global music history, as well as to discomforts that arise in our scholarly, teaching, and performance praxes. I will start by telling a story that takes me well out of my comfort zone, which I hope may contribute to the ongoing work of denaturalizing musicological discourse as a white European or settler space. Following Jessica Bissett Perea’s prompt (p. 255), which frames this forum “Indigelogically” as a gathering, I will introduce myself and situate what I am about to say in relation to my own “Peoples, places, and projects.”

According to my family’s stories, our Irish and German ancestors settled in Turtle Island in the late nineteenth century along Lake Michigan and the upper Mississippi River. Their descendants raised my sister and me in traditional Ho-Chunk territory [southern Wisconsin], although my education suppressed Ho-Chungra People’s knowledge that “‘we have always been here’ and more than likely, [will] always be here.”2 I now live with my daughter north of Jaödeogë’ (between two rivers), a Seneca name for Pittsburgh, not far from Cuweuhanne, a Lenape name for Pine Creek. Much of my earlier professional life was spent in Lenape lands at the University of Pennsylvania and in Gabrielino and Tongva lands at UCLA. As a recent transplant here in Jaödeogë’, I pay respects to the Onödowa’ga (Seneca) People as long-standing Keepers of the Western Door, as well as to Lenape, Shawnee, and other Native Peoples who settled here in colonial times and cared for this land, and I acknowledge the continuing presence here of Indigenous people of many nations and the responsibility to try “to live together in ethical kinship.”3

It is also important to me to acknowledge my ties to colleagues who have contributed to this forum, especially Yvonne Liao, with whom I co-chaired the AMS GMHSG from 2019 until 2021 and co-organized the 2021 GMHSG roundtable on this forum’s topic. Hedy Law, a friend and fellow French music historian, graciously agreed to convene this forum. Another contributor, Jessica Bissett Perea, was my first doctoral advisee, and I am grateful for what I have learned from working with her over the years. Likewise, my conversations with Daniel Castro Pantoja always inspire me to think more critically about this work. Finally, I have admired Parkorn Wangpaiboonkit’s research since meeting him during a speaking visit, and I was delighted to meet Alexandria Carrico and Pablo Palomino during the roundtable and get to know their work.

Their articles engage discomfort plurivocally, but two descriptions will give a sense of how we have conceived it in this forum. Carrico defines discomfort from a disability advocacy perspective as “an embodied state of unease, anxiety, pain, or embarrassment” that ableist discourses tend to conflate with disabled embodiment but is actually a product of uncomprehending and unwelcoming environments (p. 273). This critical understanding of discomfort complements Castro Pantoja’s definition, which builds on Sara Ahmed’s queer feminist-of-color theorizing: an outcome of failing to conform to a social space whose norms have been shaped by and for other bodies (p. 301).

Discomfort suggests a scale much smaller than the global: indeed, it can seem minute to the point of insignificance, especially in abstraction from its generative conditions. Yet states of discomfort are never abstract, even when they are provoked by processes and structures on a vastly larger scale, because they register in the body. As Castro Pantoja argues, discomfort often comes of intimate contact across boundaries whose scales are incommensurable, and he recommends considering intimacy in these contexts as “a way to hear the entanglements of the global and other scales” (p. 304). This reminds me of historians Tony Ballantyne and Antoinette Burton’s observation that “the body is in many ways the most intimate colony, as well as the most unruly, to be subject to colonial disciplines.”4

Indeed, discomfort is often discernible in colonial sources that record scenes of soundmaking in contact zones, especially soundmaking that confronted participants with incommensurate scales or ontologies. For example, by the 1500s Mi’kmaq Peoples across Wabenaki (Land of the Dawn [New England and the Canadian Maritimes]) were selectively acquiring and re-trading European manufactured goods, especially copper kettles. Two of their uses for these kettles were as ceremonial grave goods and as soundmakers, both of which are described in a French merchant’s account of a disturbing exchange with members of the Mi’kmaq community at La Hève (Bridgewater, Nova Scotia) in the 1630s.5 The French had persuaded reluctant Mi’kmaqs to open a grave and to observe that the goods buried there had decayed, not traveled to the world of the dead. One Mi’kmaq man, seeing a corroded copper kettle, cried out that they were being tricked, but when he struck it and heard its deadened sound he surmised that the ghosts must have needed it “since it is among us a utensil of new introduction, and with which the other world cannot [yet] be furnished.” Striking the kettle again, he explained that its lack of resonance proved its soul had “abandoned it to go be of use in the other world to the dead man to whom we have given it.”6 The French scoffed at this logic, yet they were also chagrined as they hoped to dissuade the Mi’kmaqs from burying items like pelts that the merchants wanted for the transatlantic trade. However, the man persisted in listening from a grounded Mi’kmaq ontology and articulated a trajectory of cosmic scale for the kettle’s soul: a companion journeying with the dead.7

The articles in this forum contribute other historical and contemporary cases in which a confrontation of different sonic knowledges and praxes, against a background of unequal power or domination, proves discomforting. Wangpaiboonkit discusses the case of a Thai sound art tradition invented under colonial pressure to present itself as recognizably musical. When King Chulalongkorn sent an ensemble of court musicians to an international exhibition in London in 1885, the English theorist Alexander Ellis tried and failed to infer a theory of Siamese scales from their instruments’ tuning. A Siamese diplomat responded with the creative proposition that Siamese scales consisted of seven equidistant tones, thereby illustrating “Siamese civilizational excellence” according to a metric that Ellis recognized (p. 279).

Carrico also engages metrics of musical excellence, connecting World War I–era eugenics-based measures of musical talent to the discomfort that a “kripped” performance induced in a contemporary Irish traditional music session. Through her case study she also explores connections between critical disability studies and global music history, finding in both a potential for decentering dominant music epistemes and aesthetics and for community-driven advocacy. In another case of discomfort in contemporary musical life, Law’s article analyzes the ambivalence felt by Cantonese speakers around the world listening to Cantopop created after the 2020 implementation of the National Security Law (NSL) in Hong Kong, aware of the self-censorship required to “just sound right” in the NSL era. Developing Rey Chow’s analysis of sounding right as “a racialized scene of…‘languaging’” in global anglophone contexts, Law turns this critique on the fuller sonic performativity of Cantophone song subjected to aural surveillance in a Sino-driven state regime with global aspirations.8

Other articles in this forum focus on discomfort as integral to our scholarly and teaching practices of global music history. As noted above, Bissett Perea proposes discomforting practices of introduction, critical questioning, and affirming commitments as “Indigelogical” ways of centering Indigenous, Black, Trans, and Two-Spirit peoples’ “densities” in North American global musicological work. I also sense in her article an opening toward an Indigenous-centering theory of globality or perhaps trans-locality, as grounded in “(hyperlocal) Indigenous logics” that Indigenous Peoples have carried with them in diaspora (p. 256). Palomino’s article stays within the western hemisphere and asks us to think from the discomfort produced with the naturalization of “Latin America” as a field of musicological inquiry—in his words, the invention of a “regional home” (p. 297). In a sense, the idea of Latin America as a transnational musical region is not unlike the Thai diplomat’s invented scale: both are strategic fabulations by intellectuals under imperial and global capitalist pressure to package their musical “traditions,” yet both could also be understood, in Palomino’s terms, as aspirational “projects” born of dissatisfaction with imposed paradigms.

The articles gathered here challenge us to take stock of what we are doing when we focus on interconnection in global music history, by staying with the discomfort that these entanglements created in the past and may still create when we research or teach them. Indeed, a recurring source of discomfort in this forum’s articles is the connotation of the heading “global music history” itself and uncertainty over the nature of the formation it names. The second issue is more challenging: as Palomino puts it, do the “material and symbolic circulations” across the borders that we study constitute “a single global ecology of musics” or plural ecologies “linked to one another in unexpected ways” (p. 297)? Much depends on how we answer this question, somewhat less perhaps on which headings we invoke for our work, although their iterative and projective functions matter. The greatest concern centers on recuperating terms like global, music, and even history, given the western musicological legacy of deploying totalized conceptions of the world and a worldwide scale ideologically, alongside universalist discourses of music and history.9 This legacy mandates caution and precision, not for correctness but because words do things.

“Global” is, in my view, a useful misnomer. In the context of music scholarship, I find its connotations preferable to those of “world” (as in, world music history—a logical alternative that would acknowledge this field’s debt to World History), mainly because music scholars may hear that as referring to a history of “world music,” which ideally it is not.10 However, the transnational, regional, and translocal scales that are evoked in this forum might better suit particular cases, or we might find that the best heuristic is contemplating linkages between these different scales, as Palomino concludes. Alternately, we might question the value of fixed scalar terms at all, as Castro Pantoja advocates. As an early modernist, I am also mindful that peoples’ lived and imagined worlds have not been global (in the post-Copernican sense of the word as denoting a spherical planetary whole) before the modern era, that is, for most of remembered human history. We need ways of naming lived scales and geographies that do not defer to the spatial imaginary of late-modern globalization, while also being willing to identify a truly worldwide scale when our cases demand it, as in Law’s article.

Global music history, as I understand it, offers a distinct perspective on past societies’ musicking (including their sound artistry, movement, materialities, and/or philosophies) that posits the historical significance of peoples’ material and symbolic interconnections across boundaries and proposes that these interconnections can sometimes uniquely explain aspects of their musicking. It directs our attention to situations in which peoples’ musicking became entangled with others’ lifeways, often in contexts involving drastically disparate power or outright domination. Globally oriented music historiographies also invite a new perspective on these situations, asking how specific entanglements affected peoples’ musicking or, conversely, how their musicking affected peoples with whom they were entangled.

While I have found it useful to think with entanglement and other metaphors, I often find “worlds” and “world-making” more useful. As I understand it, world-making names interactions by which peoples have forged generative connections with other peoples and places in ways that are not necessarily “driven by any absolute sense of space or of scale,” as in national or imperial geographies.11 Musicking can be a mode of insurgent world-making in these situations, letting participants connect their here-and-now to other spaces, times, and beings, including mythic or other-than-human ones. I suggest that the Mi’kmaq man rapping on a copper kettle and sensing its soul had departed was just this sort of world-making, enacting a hyperlocal logic situated within an expansive Mi’kmaq cosmology.

This colonial confrontation over a kettle’s resonance brought incompatible sound worlds into proximity: where the French sensed lost profits and superstition the Mi’kmaqs heard hungry ghosts. How might we do global music history in ways that hold space for the unruly, discomforting sonic world-making that peoples have often improvised in response to exploitative or destructive interconnections? Can global music historiographies prioritize these knowledges and praxes of entanglement, resisting the impetus to uncritically celebrate globality as cosmopolitan diversification? While these questions are far from comfortable, and I do not have answers to them yet, the perspectives gathered here have challenged and provoked my understanding of what it is that we do, as well as what its limits may be.

Jessica Bissett Perea

This article proposes intentional and iterative practices of introducing oneself as a sounded intervention to the discomforts of subjectivity and relationality in global music history research. From a critical Indigenous studies perspective, gatherings such as this forum should open in ways that uplift intertribal visiting protocols, which ask all of us who gather together to take time and space to introduce ourselves in ways that more fully explain who we are in relation to what we know and what we do.12 At their core, practices of introducing oneself—in speaking and in writing—offer a way for musicologists both to build context through revisiting [our] individual pasts, presents, and futures, and to consider how to collectively reverse long-standing disciplinary practices that obscure context.13 I argue that speaking/writing [our] subjectivities and relationalities is a necessary step toward advancing critically needed expansions to musicology as a field that would more fully account for and value dense constellations of Peoples (ontologies or ways of being), places (epistemologies or ways of knowing), and projects (methodologies or ways of doing).14

At the outset, it is important to note that my proposal stems from my personal and professional experiences as an Indigenous scholar working in and around musicological spaces within North American places, which are rightfully and more widely acknowledged as stolen Indigenous lands. It is also important to draw attention to the fact that musicological research and teaching across these Indigenous lands has been and continues to be conducted primarily in the English language and privileges European classical or art musics. Thus I propose the practice of intentional and iterative intertribal introductions as a material starting point or project that, although still involving the English language, exceeds existing hegemonic Eurological structures rooted in Eurocentric canons, theories, and methods by instead uplifting Indigelogical structures rooted in Indigenous ways of being, knowing, and doing. As I will explain, although my frameworks for introducing oneself via Peoples, places, and projects are deeply informed by particular (hyperlocal) Indigenous logics, or what I call Indigelogics, the fundamental question who (e.g., who is asking, researching, speaking, writing, listening, musicking, and more) reverberates across emerging global research contexts.15 This article will proceed in three parts in alignment with my Peoples, places, projects framework and its attendant interrelated logics—ways of being (ontologies), ways of knowing (epistemologies), and ways of doing (methodologies), respectively—all of which comprise what I refer to as one’s densities of relationality.16 Each part will also suggest that more-than-Eurocentric and Eurological ways of doing global music history require that attention be paid to three discomforting questions (one per part) that could serve as calls for action: (1) How can musicological research do work with, by, and for historically excluded populations? (2) Can [we] do musicology on stolen lands? (3) What would it mean for musicologists to (re)turn [our] attention to home?

Part I—Peoples and/as Ways of Being: On the Value of Situating Ourselves

Yagheli du. Jessica Bissett Perea sh’iyi qilan
How are you? My name is Jessica Bissett Perea
Dena’ina dek’isna eshlan shida
I am a Dena’ina (Dena [Alaska Native]) woman
K’enaht’ana eshlan shida
I am Upper Tikahtnu [Cook Inlet] Dena’ina
K’enakatnu shgu shqayek qilanda
My village is Knik
Sh’eldinna Dghelay Teht’ana eshlan shida
My mother’s family are peoples of the mountains (the mountain band)
Shunkda Debra Platt inlanen q’udi
Debra Platt is my mother now (she is still here)
Sh’desna k’etsey dnay eshlan shida
My father’s family are European [French/Irish Canadian; Scottish/Polish American]
Shtukda Ronald Bissett inlanen q’udi
Ronald Bissett is my father now (he is still here)
Shqizdlan Dgheyaytnu
I was born in Dgheyaytnu [also known as Anchorage, Alaska]
Shunkda Shtukda ała Niteh shgu koht’an ghat’na gheluda
My parents raised me in Niteh (among the Islands [also known as Palmer, Alaska])
Hallie shdaja
Hallie is my younger sister
Rachel shdaja
Rachel is my younger sister
John-Carlos Perea shqen
John-Carlos Perea is my husband
Josephine stsa’a
Josephine is my daughter
Jacob shey’a
Jacob is my son
Chin’an hech’ qeshnash hu
I am thankful if I can speak to you this way
Dena’inaq’ dudeldih shit
I am learning the Dena’ina language

I open this first Peoples part of my article by telling you with whom I am in relation and those for whom I am responsible—these relationalities and responsibilities are core to my ways of being. Sharing [our] Peoples or genealogy is, for many Indigenous Peoples, the most valuable information [we] can give in the profound work of intentional and iterative introductions.17 For me, it is critical that I share this information in K’enaht’ana Qenaga (Upper Tikahtnu Dena’ina language) because at last count there are only five fluent speakers of our language remaining; thus, my speaking/writing my genealogy in my ancestral language is a deliberate and political act to sound and breathe life into Dena’inaq’ huch’ulyeshi, or our way of living.

Regarding Peoples and/as ways of being—the first pillar of this introductions practice—I am thinking with and through feminist and Indigenous practices of situating who [we] are in relation to the work that [we] do. From a critical Indigenous studies perspective, practicing introductions serves a very particular purpose. By literally speaking/writing [our] relationalities, researchers can work to dismantle myths of academic objectivity and their attendant exclusionary structures. Many feminist scholars demonstrate the ways in which objectivity masks the many ongoing violences of colonialism, imperialism, misogyny, white supremacy, ableism, and more. Donna Haraway, for example, explained how paying critical attention to “situated knowledges” poses a challenge to science and technology studies’ insistence on objectivity as a “view from above” or “from nowhere,” a false neutrality that obscures a hegemonic positionality of white, male, heterosexual, and human.18 Indeed, Yup’ik scholar Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley’s theorization of Yuuyaraq (the way of the human being) demonstrates the particularity of how Yupiaq knowledges come from somewhere (from interrelated human and more-than-human realms).19 Moreover, Douglas Medin and Ojibwe/Italian scholar Megan Bang’s collaborative work to uplift Native ways of doing science asks us to remain vigilant against the so-called objectivity of “Eurocentric ethnoscience” and to attend to unsettling the colonial dimensions of knowledge production.20 Following Medin and Bang, an anticolonial approach to global music history—one that distinguishes itself from exoticizing “world music” discourses and praxes by intentionally and iteratively centering more-than-Eurocentric logics—requires close and sustained attention to questions of who.

Regarding persistent inequities of humanity granted to different genres of humans, my work is driven by the question of how musicological research can do work with, by, and for historically excluded populations? This question only intensifies with each new instance of settler-nation violences and so-called reckonings. I propose that one of the many projects required for decolonizing existing systems and structures to the benefit of all humans is to cultivate a sustained commitment to density.21 My use of the term density responds to Métis scholar Chris Andersen’s call to consider “the density of our Indigenous being,” which is a riff on Robin D. G. Kelley’s “On the Density of Black Being.”22 Andersen’s operationalization of density as an analytic for and trenchant critique of institutionalized “difference” or “diversity” initiatives and discourse demonstrates how they racialize Native American and Indigenous Peoples into a singular constituency (thus flattening the reality of thousands of tribes with distinct ways of being, knowing, and doing) and indiscriminately minoritize all historically excluded communities into a larger but still singular constituency (read: nonwhite). Kelley notes, “We will discover in our density a more profound complexity, greater clarity, and the potential for emancipation,” a sentiment that when extended to Indigenous contexts can more fully account for a density of sovereign Peoples across our thousands of communities globally.23 Within musicological research, I argue that amplifying densities of relationality offers a desire-based relational analytic and method that is preferrable to damage-centered tokenizing approaches and pejorative valuations that relegate difference and diversity as indications of scarcity or deficiency.24

Regarding density in relation to presence, and the literal demographics of the field of musicology in my current United States context, I regularly think about the fact that there are only sixteen Native American people who endured the disciplining of music studies to earn PhDs in musicology and ethnomusicology.25 This cohort, of course, does not include numerous Indigenous music and sound studies colleagues trained in related disciplines, nor does it account for Indigenous intellectuals who worked with founding figures of ethno/musicology (e.g., Umonhon [Omaha] ethnologist Francis LaFlesche’s work with Alice Fletcher), or untold numbers of our ancestors and materials currently incarcerated in academic research collections across the globe. That there are more dead Native American and Indigenous Peoples than alive ones on university campuses—yet our bones, songs, and stories are situated as the origins, and in some cases futures, of several academic disciplines—speaks to the institutionalized inequities fueling our present absence within musicology specifically, and academia more generally.26 Yet this present absence of Indigenous Peoples in academia speaks to Kānaka Maoli scholar J. Kēhaulani Kauanui’s dual explanation of “enduring Indigeneity”: on the one hand, structures of Indigeneity endure despite our assumed absence—Indigenous Peoples and songs resist and persist despite attempts to disappear our bodies and knowledges; on the other hand, music and sound studies, which are overwhelmingly structured by settler colonial logics, endure Indigeneity—forms of endurance that require grappling with discomforts and hold within them the possibility of enacting meaningful changes.27 Although musicologists may assume [we] have little or no part to play in refusing colonial, imperial, racist, ableist, and heteropatriarchal structures, [we] all participate in institutionalized educational systems built to discipline and assimilate students from historically excluded populations. All musicologists control access to some places and spaces (e.g., classes, syllabi, committees, and more), and thus can enact some changes over who and what is sounded and heard in [our] places and spaces.

Part II—Places and/as Ways of Knowing: On the Value of Grounding Ourselves

My academic pursuits led me from my ancestral Dena’ina homelands…

…to Coast Salish lands named stubus, currently occupied by Edmonds Community College, where I earned a general transfer degree and performed with a semiprofessional vocal jazz ensemble;

…to Pshwánapam lands named K’ti’tas, currently occupied by Central Washington University, where I earned a bachelor’s degree in Music Education with an emphasis in jazz education and double bass performance;

…to Numu, Wašiw, Newe, and Nuwu lands named Oodeno, currently occupied by the University of Nevada, Reno, where I earned a master of arts degree in music history and founded and directed the department’s vocal jazz ensemble program;

…to Gabrielino and Tongva lands named Tovaangar, currently occupied by the University of California, Los Angeles, where I earned a PhD in musicology with a dissertation titled “The Politics of Inuit Musical Modernities in Alaska”;

…to Chochenyo Ohlone lands named xučyun, currently occupied by the University of California, Berkeley, where I held a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Music;

…I currently work on Patwin lands named Putah-toi, currently occupied by the University of California, Davis, where I am an associate professor of and graduate advisor for Native American Studies;

…I currently live on Ramaytush Ohlone lands named Yelamu, also known as San Francisco, California.

I open this second places part of my article by telling you where I am from and whose lands and spaces have informed my ways of knowing. This information performs the literal grounding work in an intentional and iterative introduction by recognizing the role of land- and context-based knowledges. Many Native American Peoples and critical Indigenous studies scholars demand a move away from sole reliance on “official” institutional land acknowledgments and toward more dynamic and relational personal narratives that include a concrete “action plan,” a discussion of projects that I will return to in the third part of this article.28

Regarding places and/as ways of knowing—the second pillar of this introductions practice—I am thinking with and through both Kānaka Maoli scholar Maile Arvin’s explanation of Indigeneity as an “analytic of contemporary forms of colonialism” and Kauanui’s discussion of whether Indigeneity, as “a category of analysis that is distinct from race, ethnicity, and nationality—even as it entails elements of all three of these,” holds “any substance that can be used as a foundation to make a claim.”29 Arvin, Kauanui, and many more critical Indigenous studies scholars affirm how Indigenous Peoples’ claims to sovereignty, land, and rights are deeply rooted in the substances or materialities of place- and kin-based histories and polities. And while many Indigenous studies scholars detail how Indigenous knowledge systems are deeply rooted in places and spaces, [we] must also pay attention to the ways that these systems can and do move with Indigenous Peoples, as they have always done despite centuries of forced removals and displacements from ancestral homelands. For these reasons, it is important to emphasize how ways of knowing can be linked with more capacious (rather than narrow) explanations of places and spaces: the former including [our] ancestral or adopted material lands, waters, and environments; and the latter including [our] given or chosen institutions or structures, such as academia, industries, departments, institutes, and fields of knowledge. Sounding [our] roots, routes, and relationalities to places and spaces is indeed important for musicologists, the majority of whom, due to the realities of academia, do not work in [our] ancestral homelands.

On the topic of places and spaces, I want to briefly write/speak to responses I have received in practicing my own intentional and iterative introduction. When I offer my introduction with Native Peoples and communities, there is a shared understanding that our telling of our particular research stories is only possible because of our inextricably intertwined Peoples, places, and projects, and the densities of relationality we carry. In my own experiences across intertribal Alaska Native and circumpolar Arctic Indigenous spaces, introductions of one’s Peoples and Places are meant to locate relations—as in who is related to whom via blood, adoption, marriage, and more—as well as to generate new relations via an invitation to those listening to or reading an introduction to place themselves in relation to the speaker/writer. When I offer my introduction and/as invitation with non-Native Peoples and communities, most recently with/in intertribal music studies spaces, there is a spectrum of misunderstandings that take place. On the one hand, this information is perceived as overly confessional, vulnerable, or emotional labor. On the other hand, this practice is perceived as only something Native and Indigenous Peoples can or should do. In music studies broadly, scholars tend to emphasize intellectual or professional lineages, as in who [we] studied or performed with, yet this partial accounting denies some of the most foundational and personal relations [we] bring to this work.30 I maintain that a transformative global music history will require many different kinds of people engaging in many different kinds of (re)attunement projects, projects that advance [our] responsibilities to [our] particular Peoples and places.

As an Alaska Native woman living in diaspora, I find the question “can [we] do musicology on stolen lands” a critical provocation, which is inspired by a query voiced by my colleague Beth Rose Middleton Manning to land conservationists (“can [we] conserve stolen land?”).31 To both questions, the short answer is yes, but with important caveats that require engagement with and care for Indigenous-led, Indigeneity-centered, and/or hyperlocal priorities and critiques regarding material forms of land dispossession and extractivism. To be sure, dispossession and extractivism have long been norms in musicology: Eurocentric ways of doing music history both deprive local communities of their own place-based histories and encourage a tendency toward insularity, which leads music scholars to appropriate theories and methods from other spaces (e.g., literary and cultural studies, to name just two) while rarely reciprocating anything in return.32 If [we] refuse to perpetuate these harmful practices by instead widening and deepening attention to [our] hyperlocal contexts—both in terms of engagement with and care for human and more-than-human kin—then musicologists could be uniquely positioned to operationalize more radical and relational ways of doing music history locally, which in turn could enrich and densify global music history writ large.

Part III—Projects and/as Ways of Doing: On the Value of Committing Ourselves

I am committed to uplifting Indigenous, Black, Trans, and Two-Spirit Peoples and communities in my home regions and beyond.33 To do this, I am engaged in several ongoing practices and actions, including:

…sustaining relationships with Alaska Native artists and musicians, especially those featured in my first book, Sound Relations: Native Ways of Doing Music History in Alaska (2021);

…co-editing Sovereign Aesthetics: Indigenous Approaches to Sound Studies in collaboration with fellow Native North American–identified music and sound studies scholars;

…founding and directing the UC Davis–based Indigeneity Collaboratory, an intertribal arts+sciences research collective working to advance Indigenous resurgence projects;

…co-directing the NSF-funded “Radical and Relational Approaches to Food Fermentation and Food Security” project in partnership with researchers from Ilisimatusarfik Kalaallit Nunaat (Nuuk, Greenland);

…and co-convening an Asia-Pacific Indigenous Studies seminar in partnership with researchers from Universiti Malaya (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) and the APRU (Association of Pacific Rim Universities) Indigenous Knowledges Working Group.

I open this third and final projects part of this article by naming my ongoing practices and action plans that comprise my ways of doing. These projects explain some of the responsibilities I carry as an Alaska Native musician-scholar in diaspora to engage in specific practices and impactful actions to live in good relation with and to generate more just futures for human and more-than-human beings locally and globally. I frequently revise, improve, and strengthen my statement of practices and actions through intentional and iterative processes of visiting, researching, and listening to feedback.

Regarding projects and/as ways of doing—the third pillar of this introductions practice—I am thinking with and through Ngāti Awa and Ngāti Porou (Māori) scholar Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s “twenty-five Indigenous projects,” which proposes concrete methods—ranging across claiming, remembering, envisioning, and, naming, to list just four—in the form of verbs that reflect Indigenous ways of knowing and learning as active and experience-based.34 As an Indigenous academic, I am regularly confronted by an enduring abyss between the types of identifiers, analytics, and methods that are valued by Indigenous Peoples and those that are valued by the academic industrial complex. And how one introduces themselves, or how one is introduced by another, reveals a lot about what types of information are valued. My call for musicologists to invest in intentional and iterative introductions practices seeks to fill a value abyss by unsettling ideas of “value” and “excellence,” a theme that resonates through this forum and is taken up more specifically in Carrico’s article. What I propose here is a full-scale revisiting of academic introductions in ways that exceed linear narrations of accumulated achievements by accounting for a density of nonlinear commitments and responsibilities, or projects.

Attending to the question of what would it mean for musicologists to (re)turn [our] attention to home, I am reminded of Mescalero Apache scholar John-Carlos Perea’s communications with founding ethnomusicology scholar David McAllester, who offered a crucial prediction for the field: instead of constantly privileging fieldwork, and its assumed attention to a global elsewhere, McAllester hoped music researchers would instead (re)turn to uplift homework, and its generative possibilities for a local otherwise.35 In the context of an emerging global music history project, there should be a profound discomfort regarding the silencing of Indigenous-led and Indigeneity-centered sounds and sounding in favor of mapping and remapping sounds and cultures from elsewhere. In my United States context, I am troubled by the continued relegation of Native American performers to “world music” status, an elsewhere that is decidedly not “here” or “American.” Engaging in homework could be part of our collective action plans that refuse Eurocentric and Eurological musicology and move beyond the performativity of land acknowledgments to uplift local and/or Indigenous logics for sensing and explaining music and sound.

To answer questions of how to do musicology at home on stolen lands, I listen to Indigenous land-based pedagogies that offer generative approaches for visiting-in-place—forms of thinking globally while acting locally—three of which I will share here. First, Nishnaabeg scholar Leanne Betasamosake Simpson offers a rationale for why [we] visit: “Visiting within Nishnaabeg intelligence means sharing oneself through story, through principled and respectful consensual reciprocity with another living being. Visiting is lateral sharing in the absence of coercion and hierarchy and in the presence of compassion.”36 Second, Métis scholar Janice Gaudet offers an explanation for how [we] visit, as visiting requires us “to do the hard work—to slow down, take time, make the effort, knock on the door, sit down, listen, share, go to the land, meditate, empty myself, and be present.”37 Third, this principled and presencing work unsettles what Unangaxˆ artist-scholar Haliehana Stepetin names as economies of competition and scarcity. Through intentional and reciprocal forms of visiting, which Stepetin describes as dynamic and contextual practices filled with sound and silences, we learn why and how “with one another, we are always rich.”38 Thinking with and through these three articulations moves [us] closer to generating transformative change through an ethics of relational reciprocity—not dispossession and extractivism—and is core to making space for intentional and iterative visiting protocols in [our] homes, institutions, classrooms, and more.

The intentional and iterative practice of introducing (and reintroducing) oneself compels musicologists to pay close(r) attention to [our] own logics as well as the logics of those [we] encounter; indeed, such a gathering of context performs and plays with “intimacies of scale,” as Castro Pantoja will detail later in this forum. If a more ethical and sustainable global music history revolution starts at “home”—both literal places of residence and figurative spaces of occupation/vocation—and if [we] must first heal ourselves to uplift and heal [our] families and communities, then part of living in better relation to one another is rooted in the difficult work of dismantling the either/or thinking that pervades Eurocentric and Eurological musicologies by instead valuing [our] densities of relationality as both/and propositions.

                       * * *

I want to reiterate that the approach outlined above to intertribal visiting protocols is radically inclusive and informed by my participation in collaborative research and teaching activities in invitational intertribal performance spaces. More specifically, from my own contexts, in Alaska there is a drumsong genre known as an “invitational,” in which everyone present in the performance space is invited to join in the singing and dancing regardless of who they are, where they come from, and their familiarity with the particularities of drumsong performance practices. Through the act of improvising together, invitational drumsongs facilitate acts of radical and relational ways of being together in Indigenous-led space-time. In this way, intentional and iterative practices of introducing (and reintroducing) [ourselves] invite musicologists to perform a decolonizing of [our] shared space-time, despite coming from disparate backgrounds and lived experiences, in ways that advance more just and equitable projects for all Peoples. The value of situating, grounding, and committing ourselves via intentional and iterative practices of introduction disrupts academic work from the start. Musicologists must also embrace introductions as truly emergent practices: [our] introductions should always already be in progress (as [we] all are beings in progress) and should change as [we] encounter new Peoples, places, and projects. In this way, [our] introductions become a way to mark more holistically [our] relations and ease [our] discomforts along the way.

Chin’an, gu shegh nduninyu.

Thank you for coming here to me.

Q’u yet dahdi ki q’u negh tgheshduł.

I’ll visit you again.

Alexandria Carrico

In What Is Global History?, Sebastian Conrad criticizes the “compartmentalization of historical reality” and instead offers an alternative of global history “based on the concept of integration.”39 While Conrad is specifically addressing cross-border integration that complicates the typical “container” approach to writing national history, his concept of integration is also useful in considering where significant crossovers between global perspectives in music history and critical disability studies might lie. Drawing on global history, global musicology, critical disability studies, ethnographic accounts from traditional Irish musicians, and autoethnographic reflections, I argue that global music history and disability studies have three important points of connection. They (1) decenter traditional ways of knowing; (2) challenge taste-making and ideas of excellence rooted in dominant epistemologies; and (3) provide opportunities for musicologists to engage in activism that advocates for and with historically marginalized communities. These points are in keeping with Daniel Chua’s vision of global musicology as an invitation to move past disciplinary boundaries that divide us and to “grow by being in relation.”40 In this article, I propose a productive dialogue between critical disability studies and global music history.

As this discussion is a product of my own situated perspective and lived experience, I would like to begin by following Bissett Perea’s example of self-introduction. My parents were born in Ohio and grew up on the ancestral lands of the Kaskaskia and Erie [also known as Akron] and the Myaamia [also known as Sharonville].41 My mother tells the story that I began singing before I could talk, and although my parents did not identify as musicians, they enrolled me in piano lessons at the age of five and voice lessons at seven. This early European-classical training was augmented by a variety of genres, including Irish traditional music (a musical heritage shared by both sides of the family). Over the years my love of music and culture grew, leading me to pursue a bachelor’s in vocal performance, a master’s in ethnomusicology, and a PhD in musicology. My graduate training combined perspectives from ethnomusicology and historical musicology, resulting in my identification as a “big M” musicologist, or someone whose research combines ethnographic and historical methodologies.42

In graduate school I began to explore disability studies and work with neurodivergent individuals, or those whose minds function “in ways which diverge significantly from the dominant societal standard of ‘normal.’”43 This research began in the United States through my collaboration with the Williams syndrome community and later expanded internationally and culturally through Irish traditional music workshops with a group of neurodivergent young adults in Limerick, Ireland. My research with these communities has aided me both in recognizing and accepting my own invisible disabilities, and in creating educational spaces that value disabled experiences through my teaching at the University of South Carolina, located on the ancestral lands of Tsalaguwetiyi and Congaree peoples. To borrow Bissett Perea’s analogy of “home” and “visiting,” I find myself simultaneously occupying the role of resident and visitor. Although the Western art music (WAM) tradition has become my “home” as an academic and classically trained vocalist, I am also an Irish traditional musician and do not fit neatly into either category. Similarly, although I identify as disabled, I am not neurodivergent and therefore do not share the same experiences as many of my collaborators. Such tensions are discomforting in their in-betweenness, yet demonstrate that situated shifts occur in relation to the people, places, and projects in our proximity.

This brings me to the first point of connection outlined in the introduction. The majority of my projects are grounded in critical disability theory, which thematizes the “scrutiny of normative ideologies…not for its own sake but with the goal of producing knowledge in support of justice for people with stigmatized bodies and minds.”44 Critical disability theory actively attempts to decenter traditional ways of knowing rooted in ableism, which “renders disability as abject, invisible, disposable, less than human, while able-bodiedness is represented as at once ideal, normal, and the mean or default.”45 Global history shares similar goals of effecting what Conrad describes as “a change in the organization and institutional order of knowledge.”46 Here these two seemingly disparate fields not only work toward a common goal but also attempt to unsettle “‘entangled’ historiographies” steeped in racism, misogyny, and ableism that have historically been situated within Western frameworks of power.47

This first point of connection is inextricably linked to the second: that critical disability studies and global music history can challenge ideas of excellence rooted in Eurocentric constructs of musical talent. Within WAM, values of “excellence” and “musical talent” are tied to legacies of racism, sexism, and eugenics.48 Disability has either been obscured or fetishized through suggestions of composers heroically “overcoming” disability, as has been the case in narratives of Beethoven’s deafness.49 While it could be argued that understandings of musical excellence in the discourse of WAM are culturally bound, the colonial presence of Europeans across the globe resulted in the projection of WAM values onto other cultural traditions and the subsequent rejection of Indigenous understandings of musical excellence. A case in point is Wangpaiboonkit’s description in this forum of nineteenth-century Siamese intellectuals attempting to reconcile their musical systems with a European musical discourse. Attempts to appeal to entrenched musical values also occur in discussions of disabled composers, who are recognized when their performances align with aesthetic expectations of what Law describes as “just sounding right,” yet are marginalized when they do not.50

What global music history offers is an opportunity not only to decenter such European hegemonic assumptions of musical talent but also to challenge the process of taste-making altogether. Taste-making requires us not only to be discriminating but also to discriminate, reinforcing elitist discourses that uplift certain aesthetic properties while denigrating others. Such discriminatory judgments are challenged by global music history and disabled music histories. Globalization, as Chua comments, “requires us to adopt an indiscriminate taste. We need to be indiscriminate—wonderfully indiscriminate—about the music we study and what methods we use. We need to be indiscriminate about standards and measures, because the globe is uneven.”51 Such unevenness presents an opportunity to draw a distinction between musical talent and musicality.

While musical talent is defined by aesthetic values that are culturally bound and tied to notions of technical proficiency, musicality takes into account social factors “apart from musical skill.”52 For instance, in a study of music and Williams syndrome, Donovon Thakur describes musicality as having four main aspects: “Affinity (e.g., interest, preferences, enjoyment, motivation); Experience (e.g., musical training, community involvement [i.e., band, choir, church, etc.]); Engagement (e.g., time spent playing/listening, attending concerts); and Artistry (e.g., creativity, expressivity, sensitivity, emotionality).”53 Other researchers from the fields of psychology and neuroscience have argued that musicality is an innately human quality that facilitates social bonding.54 From my experience working with neurodivergent musicians in the United States and Ireland, I argue for a synthesis of these perspectives and suggest that musicality occurs when an individual engages in creative and emotional expression with others through musical means. This shared experience allows for interpersonal and cross-cultural interaction that facilitates the development of relationships between humans through musicking.55 Furthermore musicality does not demand strict adherence to normativity but instead makes room for a variety of expressions, be they musical, social, or emotional. It is important to note that such departures from normative musicking can cause discomfort for those whose “home” is situated within European hegemonic taste-making conventions, leading to what Castro Pantoja describes as the “soreness and pain (discomfort)” that results “when bodies do not quite fit into normative spaces” (p. 302). Yet discomforting experiences can create important shifts in perspective and locatedness, ultimately resulting in greater interconnectivity between disparate communities. Here I would like to offer an example from my own transnational ethnographic research of an intersection between musicality and discomfort I witnessed during an Irish traditional music (or trad) session in Limerick, 56 involving the Roselawn Rovers Return (Rovers), a group of neurodivergent musicians, and Cruinniú, a group of seemingly neurotypical community musicians.57

During this collaborative session I found myself sitting next to Jane, one of the Rovers. Jane had been listening attentively to the Cruinniú members, who were in the midst of playing a lively jig set. Toward the end of the set Jane picked up the orange bucket that had become her favorite form of musical expression and began to tap lightly on its side using a triangle beater. Jane’s contribution was unusual for a trad session, which typically foregrounds melody instruments such as fiddles, flutes, and concertinas, and may also feature stringed backing instruments, and the bodhrán, an Irish frame drum. The unexpected sound of the bucket disrupted the soundscape, and my eyes snapped to Jane and then to the other musicians, who were initially taken aback at this new addition. I immediately felt a tightening sense of anxiety as I searched the other musicians’ faces, trying to discern their expressions. Then I leaned into the discomfort and started to listen. Jane progressed through a variety of playing techniques from rapidly tapping on the edge of the bucket to pounding on the top, all the while carefully manipulating the timbre in order to coincide with the changes in the melodic line. In that moment Jane was kripping (or cripping) the soundscape, contributing a related, yet innovative interpretation of this jig through unconventional performance.

I use the term “kripping” both to highlight Jane’s unexpected musical contribution as a form of neurodivergent musicking and to place her performance in dialogue with other disabled artists who have claimed kripping as an important form of disabled musical expression. Although the term “cripple” has been used pejoratively, disabled activists have reclaimed kripping to disrupt oppressive power structures just as LGBTQ advocates have embraced the term “queer” as a positive identity.58 Within popular music the concept of kripping is dominant in krip hop, a subgenre of hip hop created by Leroy Moore Jr. and Keith Jones that supports disabled artists who have experienced discrimination owing to their disability, race, gender, and sexuality.59 Kripping, however, is neither genre-specific nor exclusive to music; it can occur in any artistic tradition. Kripping resists the ableist gaze and foregrounds the musicality of neurodivergent musicians as a valuable form of cultural production. To krip is to unsettle normative expectations by centering the disabled experience. Despite the years I have spent in disability studies and my familiarity with musical kripping—from the standpoint of observer and participant—I almost missed Jane’s kripping by letting my discomfort get the better of me. It was only by recalibrating my listening to hear beyond expectations of normative musicking within trad aesthetics (which have largely influenced my “home” experience) that I understood Jane’s performance for what it was—her own expression of musicality.

I intentionally link kripping as an expression of musicality to an inclusive understanding of listening, which I conceptualize not only as an action but also a way of perceiving and experiencing sociocultural and global sound worlds. This form of listening goes beyond normative expectations of technical skill and virtuosity and instead recognizes the values of diverse musical expressions. It confronts hearing-centric understandings of music and welcomes the richness of the embodied and visual Deaf musical experience, and it centers intersectional voices, music, and lived experiences that have been routinely marginalized. This form of listening is directly connected to the goals of global music history, which Chua describes as “the true act of listening…, [which] means attending to something we have no interest in.” This, he continues, “may seem counterintuitive, but if we only listen to our own interests, nothing truly new will happen. Genuine change only occurs in interaction with what we do not know.”60 Such listening to understand is not passive but actively challenges the aesthetic values that have been passed down to me/us through my/our home of the academy. It also resonates with Castro Pantoja’s discussion later in this forum of the potential inherent in “listening for intimacy”—an act that in this case reveals diverse expressions of musicality, creativity, and humanity. Here musicality is an important form of human expression that has the power to transform human perception. Indeed Jane’s expression of musicality not only allowed me to re-confront my ingrained musical biases but also altered stereotypes previously held by some Cruinniú members.

In a post-session interview Cruinniú member Sean spoke about the feelings of discomfort he had previously experienced when working with neurodivergent individuals and how this tension dissolved during the session:

I suppose I’m not 100% comfortable [working with disabled people] and I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s because I feel as though I’m transmitting that [discomfort] to them and it’s not very fair on them if I am. So that’s it. But now something like the session that we had at the Hurler’s that night—that was great. And it was good for me actually, you know? Because [the Rovers] were lovely. They were really great. And it kind of gave me an insight into their tremendous sense of rhythm.…And I don’t know whether it was my imagination, but I thought [Jane] did super work on [the bucket] because sometimes she was on the off-beat and I loved that.61

In the first part of Sean’s statement he draws a connection between discomfort and disability—a sentiment that I have heard many times from nondisabled individuals. The notion that disability is discomforting to the nondisabled is a common trope within disability studies. Discomfort as an embodied state of unease, anxiety, pain, or embarrassment is closely linked to ableist understandings of disability, which reject nonnormative bodies and minds. Scholars such as Tobin Siebers have argued that disability serves as a source of anxiety for the nondisabled due to the permeability of the two identities: “Able-bodiedness is a temporary identity at best, while being human guarantees that all other identities will eventually come into contact with some form of disability identity.”62 Disability can be experienced individually, be it the short-term result of a sprained wrist or a permanent state brought on by birth, chronic illness, or old age, or interpersonally through a friend, colleague, or family member. In short, disability touches us all. Perhaps the very ephemerality of so-called able-bodiedness causes humans to cling to it and view disability with unease. Experiences of disability are, however, the rule rather than the exception, a fact that directly challenges notions of the nondisabled bodymind as normative and experiences of discomfort and disability as “Other.” In this way, disability is universal, yet experiences of disability—which are contingent on value systems that vary between and within cultures—are not. The lens of the global provides a productive and nuanced way to approach this difference. Like musicality and kripping, global music history encourages us to listen for these variations and reminds us that “identities are formed through their interaction with difference.”63

This brings us to the third point of connection: the convergence of disability and global music history creates opportunities for musicologists to advocate for and with historically marginalized communities. Musicality transgresses normative musical values and offers opportunities to embrace neurodivergent musical expression. This sentiment is reflected in Sean’s appreciation of Jane’s complex rhythmic performance on the orange bucket. Furthermore, he suggests that Jane’s musicality in kripping the trad soundscape allowed him to move past his initial discomfort and connect with the Rovers on a human level. As demonstrated through Sean’s narrative, musicality transcends culturally constructed notions of musical talent and centers listening for difference as an act of disability advocacy.

While Sean’s reflection highlights the potential for experiences of musicality to facilitate social bonding between neurodivergent and neurotypical musicians, it is also a reminder that we must first be willing to step away from our “home” and engage with discomfort. Through my collaboration with Jane and Sean, and my own self-reflection, I have learned that discomfort is not only instructive but also potentially transformative. Yet embracing this inclusive musicality also means examining ableist standards of musical talent in local and global contexts. For me this means addressing these themes in my teaching of canonical WAM in university settings and in my research collaboration with neurodivergent musicians in Ireland and the United States. More broadly, the commonalities between disability studies and global music history highlight the potential for generative discourse. The centering of generous listening practices across and within cultural traditions, and the drive to challenge hegemonic musical norms, suggest the possibility of a musicological paradigm shift rooted in transformative activism that values relationality and humanity over discriminatory definitions of musical excellence.

Parkorn Wangpaiboonkit

In Our Neighbors, Ourselves, Homi Bhabha theorizes the stakes of the politics of recognition through a primal scene of colonial encounter, a vignette in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899), in which the protagonist Charles Marlow stops to notice the pained visage of an ailing Congolese man with a piece of white fabric tied around his neck.64 Offering the man a biscuit, Marlow focuses his attention on the scrap of cloth; the white man becomes absorbed in pondering its meanings: “Where did he get it? Was it a badge—an ornament—a charm—a propitiatory act? Was there any idea at all connected with it? It looked startling around his black neck, this bit of white thread from beyond the seas.”65 This is the moment of recognition, when the colonial Other becomes human, when interiority is recognized—in this case—through the commonality of sartorial practice. The sight of the native man’s face initially moves Marlow to an act of charity. But it is the latter’s pondering on white fabric that activates the process of recognition, raising the possibility that this man might be a subject who possesses a belief system unknown to Marlow.

Bhabha focuses on this moment as an unsettling experience that disturbs the recognizer’s sense of self: “In reaching out to the specific thought of the other and grappling with what is not entirely intelligible within it…there lies the possibility of identifying with the unconscious of the other, and extending oneself in the direction of the neighbor’s alterity and unknowability.”66 Recognition makes legible the gap of difference but does not fully traverse it. The native man’s interiority is not granted a priori as a human right, but ushered in through a moment of Marlow’s pondering the man’s “startling” sartorial preference. The white thread around the neck serves as the mediating structure that enables the moment of recognition: its presence points toward an as-yet-unknown system of meaning but does not, in itself, index or disclose the content of those meanings.

Marlow’s discomfort at being unable to grasp the native man’s belief system offers an opportunity to reflect on the relationship of music studies to the colonial archive. Bhabha’s analysis places both the agency of recognition and the onus to identify with the colonial Other entirely upon the party in power. The subjectivity of the recognizer is the locus of colonial discomfort, leaving that of the recognized “unconscious” absent in a vignette of silent abject alterity. Marlow does all the thinking and feeling; the native man lies dying.

Much recent Euro-American scholarship on music and colonialism has been written from the perspective of the European-language archive.67 Such histories center the experience of European imperial officers in foreign lands, often accompanied by laments for the dearth of documents preserved in non-Western archives.68 While this body of work has been expert at demystifying white fantasies of colonial contact, it risks repeating portrayals of a colonial Other as existing forever within traces retold or rescued from the European archive.

I have written, so far, with the abstract distance of theory—theory derived from a reading of fiction, no less—in order to question its portability. Let me now contextualize myself, in the spirit of Bissett Perea’s call for intentional relationality in music scholarship. I was born and raised in Bangkok, but have lived and studied much of my adult life in xučyun (Huichin), the unceded land of Chochenyo-speaking Ohlone people.69 Within the Euro-American academy, I am among the few scholars who study music and Thailand, and often find myself standing in for all of “Thainess” in a given academic space. I am, in turn, connected and disconnected in complex ways to Thai music scholars working in Thailand, each of whom holds intellectual and ethical aims of scholarship that variously overlap with and contradict my own.

In my work on the colonial history of nineteenth-century Siam, I often come across moments of encounter in which the discourse of Siamese music served as the conduit through which European observers placed the Siamese race in a hierarchy of civilizational advancement. While accounts of Siamese music from the European archive routinely paint the Siamese as passive subjects of evaluation, the Siamese archive—diaristic, journalistic, and scholarly—is rich with strategic reflections on the perceived worth of Siamese music within an admittedly global-colonial order.

A salient instance of Siamese self-invention occurred during the International Inventions Exhibition, which opened in London in May 1885. The exhibition, touted as the first “devoted to the illustration of the history of Music from the earliest times down to the present day,” featured performances that made audible the linear development of music history: long-unheard music from Dufay and Ockeghem to Bach and Handel alongside an ensemble of Siamese musicians straight from the court of Chulalongkorn.70 This was the moment when Siamese intellectuals became aware that their music contained racially specific knowledge imperceptible to its performers.

English music theorist and mathematician Alexander Ellis had long hoped for an opportunity to experience Siamese music firsthand. In his article “On the Musical Scales of Various Nations,” which he published in March 1885, Ellis had left incomplete the section on Siamese tuning in anticipation of this very opportunity to examine the musicians and their instruments.71 Equipped with a battery of tuning forks, Ellis visited the Siamese embassy in June 1885 to take pitch measurements of the Siamese scale from two percussion instruments: the ranat ek (xylophone) and ranat lek (metallophone).72 While it was easy enough for Ellis to deduce that the instruments divided the octave into seven tones, the intervals between each tone varied drastically between the two ranat. For example, Ellis listed the interval between the second and third notes of the scale (II and III) as 219 cents on the ranat lek, but only 165 cents on the ranat ek (see table 1). Similarly, he observed that the intervals between the fourth and fifth notes (IV and V) was larger on the ranat ek, at 200 cents, compared to the ranat lek at 150 cents.73 The measurements Ellis took from these instruments did not point toward any coherent theory for Siamese tuning.

Table 1.

Alexander Ellis’s Measurements of the Siamese Scale (“Appendix,” 1105).

Ranat Lek 
 Vib. 285  316  358  386  421  458  511  562 
 Cents 177 II 219 III 127 IV 150 149 VI 148 VIII 167 
Ranat Ek 
 Vib. 285  317  349  383  429  471  522  577 
 Cents 185 II 165 III 160 IV 200 159 VI 178 VIII 174 
 Vib. 285  315  347  383  423  467  516  570 
 Cents 171 II 171 III 171 IV 171 171 VI 171 VIII 171 
Ranat Lek 
 Vib. 285  316  358  386  421  458  511  562 
 Cents 177 II 219 III 127 IV 150 149 VI 148 VIII 167 
Ranat Ek 
 Vib. 285  317  349  383  429  471  522  577 
 Cents 185 II 165 III 160 IV 200 159 VI 178 VIII 174 
 Vib. 285  315  347  383  423  467  516  570 
 Cents 171 II 171 III 171 IV 171 171 VI 171 VIII 171 

Ellis’s examination of the Siamese instruments was presided over by Prince Prisdang, Siamese ambassador extraordinaire.74 Upon seeing Ellis’s unsatisfactory readings, Prisdang proposed instead that the Siamese scale consisted of seven equal tones, tuned to 171 cents per interval (171.43 being seven equal divisions of 1200 cents in an octave).75 In a moment of strategic self-invention, Prisdang replaced the jumbled intervals of Ellis’s measurements and claimed the organizational perfection of equidistance for Siamese music.

This encounter introduced the idea of mathematical consistency into Siamese musical thought, a pivot through which Prisdang transformed the strangeness of stark difference into legible diversity. In Bhabha’s example, Marlow is the agent who recognizes the native man’s interiority through the white fabric that indexes an underlying belief system. Prisdang, on the other hand, becomes a strategic agent for manufacturing the conduit of his own recognition. Understanding his representative role in Ellis’s evaluation, the colonial Other offers up an invented knowledge that demonstrates music-theoretical coherence for his own “culture.” The frame of music theorizing, here, serves as the recognizable symbol—Bhabha’s fabric around the neck—through which Siamese civilizational excellence can be illustrated in a knowledge system legible to European cognition.

In thinking on my contribution toward a global music history, I have been drawn to reflect on the work of invented signifiers and systems that demand recognition, rather than the affective qualities of the fleeting moment of encounter itself. This shift relocates the locus of colonial discomfort away from the experience of European officers in foreign lands (Marlow’s unsettled sense of self as he recognizes the native man’s unknowable interiority) to the work that subjects of colonialism themselves undertook upon their entrance to the global-colonial register. Histories of music and colonialism, operating often in a prefabricated paradigm of postcolonial struggle, frequently fail to account for these agents who acted strategically to restructure their musical and sonic selves in a bid toward global power. My approach centers the discomfort of colonial targets (as reactive thinkers rather than unknowable subalterns) in preparing a sense of self that is “worthy” of recognition.

Seeking to confirm the newfound theory of Siamese tuning, Ellis devised an instrument in seven-tone equal temperament and played it for the assessment of the Siamese musicians. Confirming Ellis’s assumptions and their prince’s observation, they professed a preference for the scale based on purely theoretical measurements to the one based on the tuning of their own instruments. As Ellis notes: “In order to test the correctness of this information…I played [the equidistant scale] before the musicians at the Siamese Legation. They unanimously pronounced the scale good. I then played the scale I had heard from the Ranat Ek, and they said it was out of tune. This experiment may be considered decisive.”76 In his fantasy of absolute control over pitch production, Ellis had conjured an ideal scale that sounded the essence of “Siamese tuning” with an accuracy never before produced by a Siamese instrument: a perfection against which the ranat, tuned with applications of lead and wax, became heard as out of tune. In a weird mirroring of performing for recognition, the agendas of encounter drown out the sounds and make it impossible to actually hear Siamese music—leaving only strategically reciprocal reflection on pitch and tone as isolated constituents.

Ellis mapped these findings onto an imaginary timeline of civilizational progress, proffering Siamese music, with its emphasis on tone and absence of vertical harmony, as evidence of what music must have sounded like in Europe’s ancient times.77 The efforts of the Siamese to convey a music-theoretical system that was legible to Ellis had failed to preclude them from being relegated to an earlier stage in temporal development. In the written publication—the space of knowledge production that follows encounter—the rules of the game were stacked against Siamese musicians as objects of study.

The discourse of civilizational progress was not mere rhetoric but was crucial to the preservation of Siam’s sovereignty at the time. In the late nineteenth century, Britain and France utilized the discourses of civilizational excellence, racial purity, and the right to rule as justification for colonial expansion across Southeast Asia.78 This introduced to Southeast Asian imperial dynamics the idea that a nation needed to justify its sovereignty through displays of racial-civilizational unity. At the close of the Franco-Siamese War in 1893, Siam had lost many of its territories to French and British control, a geopolitical seizure backed by unequal treaties, international law, and ethnological studies on the racial impurity and civilizational backwardness of Siam’s ruling class.79 Charting a careful path through European theorization of Siamese music was, in this context, pertinent to Siam’s colonial survival at this time.80

The colonial history of nineteenth-century Siam is not, however, simply one of victimhood but of direct competition between Siam and European powers. Itself a prior colonizing force in Southeast Asia, Siam competed directly with European interests in attempts to retain and expand its regional empire.81 Thai historian Thongchai Winichakul has demonstrated how the Siamese court coined the rhetoric of siwilai (civilization) as a philological conduit to assimilate Euro-imperial rhetoric and to stake out a position for Siam in colonial modernity. This new ordering of the world was, in Winichakul’s terms, a “temporal consciousness in which history, progress, and nostalgia were conceivable”—a civilizational time that displaced Siamese indigenous notions of Hindu-Buddhist temporal-cosmic stasis.82 The elaboration of a quantifiable consistency of a musical system served, then, as a measure of civilizational achievement. Rather than playing out a dynamic of subaltern resistance against imperial oppression, Siamese intellectuals constructed their accounts of music history and theory with a view to securing their global-colonial status through the approval of Europe’s imperial ear.

In scholarly hindsight, it is easy to imagine that either Prisdang himself or the Siamese musicians could have indicated to Ellis the flaws in his methods. They could have pointed, for instance, to his presumptions that Siamese tuning is a homogeneous practice, that one group of musicians could represent the whole of their race, and—even more absurdly—that Siamese psychology itself was audible in the intervals of a purported tonal system. As an oral tradition passed down in systems of apprenticeship, Siamese court music supported competing schools and master lineages, many of which subscribed to unique tuning practices as markers of style and differentiation. The concept of a theoretical ideal scale, conceived outside of performance and as something toward which performances should aspire, was a racializing construct introduced to Siamese musical discourse by Ellis’s study. Moreover, Ellis assumed that all Siamese instruments followed the tuning of fixed-pitch percussion instruments. Tuning depended, however, not only on whether an ensemble actually included fixed-pitch percussion instruments but also on the repertoire being played.83

Siamese intellectuals in the ensuing decades, however, did not reject European music-theoretical frameworks as extraneous intrusions to Siamese thought. Rather, they endeavored to codify a Siamese musical discourse that reckoned with and incorporated the prestige of European knowledge production. The first of such efforts was an anonymous article, “Dontri” (Music), which was published in the court’s Wachirayanwiset journal in 1894. The article begins with a philological treatment of the origins of the Siamese word for music, dontri, from the Sanskrit for a plucked string, ostensibly demonstrating an ancient Indo-European lineage of Siamese. It goes on to list and describe instruments of Indian, Burmese, Khmer, Siamese, and European origin, before concluding:

Of the musics of various races described here, if I were to compare the merits of each to honor one above all, I must commend the European race for their peerless intelligence. Their music is capable of producing twelve distinct pitches, greater than that of any other race, while Thai music is the foulest of them all, capable of only producing seven.84

Fixated on the division of the octave as a measure of racial worth, this Siamese theorist had expropriated the European concern for pitch organization as an index of cultural standing. Racializing comparativism was not a one-sided concern of European intellectuals, but internalized to Siamese musical thought as a matter of reflexive self-evaluation.

The ensuing decades saw further publications—in Thai and English—that worked to authenticate the history of Thai music through Eurological frameworks. Publications like Phra Apaipolrop’s Dontriwithiya (Musicology, 1912), Wichit Wathakan’s The Evolution of Thai Music (1942), and the governmental Department of Fine Arts’ Thai Classical Music (1961) coined and catalyzed narratives on the developmental history of national instruments and songs, the theoretical coherence of Siamese tuning, and the localization of European musical terms as naturalized concepts to describe Siamese music.85 These efforts illustrate concerted attempts to claim a music history for the nation such that civilizationally inferior conjectures could not be ascribed through the musings of foreign observers.

I have given a brief example here of the ways in which Siamese musical thought transformed in the face of newfound value systems. These are not indigenous knowledges offered as a supplement or corrective to Euro-American Music Studies but a history of self-unsettled reflections on what it meant to be evaluated by and incorporated into such systems. This history renews ontological questions about “globe” and “music” that are routinely posed as core problems for conceptualizing a global music history.86 The impossibility of a global vantage point has been much theorized: nobody lives at the level of the globe. It exists as a knowable space through visualizing and virtualizing technologies such as the tabletop globe and the internet.87 One way to approach this contingency is through the experience of historical actors who find themselves having to adapt to being thrust upon the globe, to the upheaval of having the globe arrive at their doorstep.

This process of locating oneself at the global register comes with reductive and (self-)essentializing categories of regional emplacement. The discomfort that Palomino locates later in this forum in the concept “Latin American music” as an essentialist regionalism is one that is also an issue of concern for scholars of “Southeast Asia,” a spatial identity of relatively new coinage.88 Our approaches here build upon recent calls for scholarly attention to listening positionalities from the Global South, to examine how specific places come to find themselves as a “South” to begin with.89 These inquiries upon categories of spatialized belonging are, to anticipate Castro Pantoja’s contribution to the forum, a “play with scales” (Siamese, Thai, Southeast Asian, Global South, and so forth) that confronted and continue to confront historical actors and present-day scholars alike.

Global music history, then, could offer space for recognition of the discomfort that arises as certain non-European music practices navigate their entry into a highly provincial global sphere—the weighing and balancing the guises of one’s music within a politics of colonial approval. In turn, these processes of navigation, and the conditions by which non-European musical practices become codified into legible forms of knowledge, provide a means of reflecting on some of the problems central to global music history, not least the Eurocentric question of what constitutes music in the first place.

Hedy Law

How does music mark a historic moment of global scale? Cultural changes, according to Sebastian Conrad, have an impact often more profound than political and economic changes.90 This article uses one case study to demonstrate a specific kind of cultural change—a musical one—in response to a political change. I will explain my experience of a recent global moment—the implementation of the National Security Law (NSL) in July 2020 in Hong Kong—and its impact on music. Observing this moment as a musicologist who lives outside Hong Kong, I argue that the Cantonese popular songs (also known as Cantopop) that “sound right” served a storytelling function on a global scale ahead of the emergence of narratives—including the official one authorized by the Chinese Communist Party, peer-reviewed scholarly ones, and in other media forms—of the recent history of Hong Kong.91

To ground this discussion, I respond to Bissett Perea’s call for a self-introduction. As a musicologist, born and raised in British Hong Kong, who has lived and conducted research in the United Kingdom, the United States, France, and Canada since the United Kingdom handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997, I have found myself evolving over the years from an insider to an outsider, gradually transforming from a British colonial subject who once called Hong Kong “home” into a settler in a nation called Canada. I currently work in Vancouver, part of the territory of the xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam) people. Consequently, my sense of “home” has become increasingly multilayered. My grandparents on my father’s side migrated from the Guangdong province to British Hong Kong when they were teenagers. My mother is indigenous. Her ancestors lived in Hong Kong when it was a village in southern China, long before it was colonized by Britain in 1842. Nevertheless, like many musicologists and scholars, I consider myself “global” because I am constantly “moving and crossing borders.”92 My identification with various Cantonese communities within and outside Hong Kong is often conditioned by the languages and dialects I use. I speak Cantonese, a language considered a minoritized Yue dialect in Hong Kong, Guangdong, and Macau, although spoken by the majority of Hong Kong residents, and I understand a Cantonese Shunde dialect spoken by my grandparents, who came from that district in Guangdong. I also understand to some extent the indigenous Weitou dialect spoken in my mother’s village, which is a Yue dialect closer to the Donguan dialect than it is to Cantonese.93

My understanding of Cantonese and its dialects helps me chart the mobility of Cantonese music in a linguistic “region”—a key concept in global history—across political borders. During the era of British Hong Kong (1842–1997), most original Cantonese music was composed and performed in the Canton region, including Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao, but waves of diaspora, first from the late nineteenth century to the early 1920s, and again in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2020s, have made Cantonese music mobile.94 Since the 2010s, in postcolonial Hong Kong, Cantopop songs have been officially released by record companies based in Hong Kong on YouTube for a global audience and on region-specific music streaming subscription services. The accessibility of Cantopop on the internet has facilitated its transborder resonance and has created a language- and genre-based community of global and local listeners through which songs that address the impact of the NSL can be shared.

The NSL reflects the global context of Hong Kong as a region in the Hong Kong–China “nexus.”95 Coming in the wake of a wave of street protests, the NSL outlaws acts or facilitation of terrorism, subversion, separatism, or collusion with foreign powers. At first glance, it aims at imposing new legal restrictions on the freedom of expression of the Hong Kong people who organized massive pro-democratic protests in 2014 and 2019.96 Yet a closer look reveals that this local statute enables the Hong Kong government to apply what legal scholar Angela Huyue Zhang calls “extraterritorial jurisdiction” to offenses “from outside the Region [Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, or HKSAR].”97 Thus the NSL has unveiled a Sino-driven order over and against a Eurocentric legal practice at a global scale. It asserts a global legal reach that can criminalize individuals, organizations, or institutions both in and outside of mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macao.98 Indeed the extraterritorial element of the law has been exercised. On March 14, 2022, the UK-based organization Hong Kong Watch was the first known foreign organization to be accused of violating the NSL.99

The onset of the NSL-driven political era creates an international ripple effect for global history. Major international media, having followed the unfolding of the unrest in Hong Kong since 2014, are cognizant of the extraterritorial feature of the NSL. Locals and expatriates in Hong Kong have lived with periods of discomfort ranging from periodic physical distancing and surveillance protocols to disrupted service in public transportation and tear gassing, which might lead to the identification of Hong Kong in the NSL age as an unfamiliar and uninhabitable place.

In the face of the implementation of the NSL, it has been imperative to have narratives other than day-to-day journalistic accounts that shape events into stories. Professionals in various fields have made attempts to document or explain the impact of the NSL. In 2021 filmmaker Kiwi Chow released a documentary of the 2019 protests, Revolution of Our Times, and 2022 saw the publication of a number of major monographs on the subject: historian John Carroll notes the confusion between the notion of “reintegration” with mainland China and “recolonization” by it in post-handover Hong Kong; Chinese Studies scholar Kevin Carrico explains the claim of independence in Hong Kong that provoked a governmental crackdown; journalist Louisa Lim recounts the happenings of the 2019 protest; and legal scholar Michael Ng demonstrates that freedom of expression was permitted by the UK government only in the last fifteen years of the British Hong Kong era.100 Countering these attempts to document, explain, or criticize the governmental clampdown was the official, state-sanctioned narrative presented by Xi Jinping, president of the People’s Republic of China, on October 16, 2022, which spoke of “order” being restored in Hong Kong after a “turbulent” period.101

The NSL, in which national security takes precedence over individual rights, regards acts of resistance as subversive.102 This has resulted in an abrupt and almost total disappearance of incidents that signal political resistance. The energy that propelled the protests of 2014 and 2019 seems to have dissipated; dozens of leaders of the democratic-leaning movement are in prison; combat-ready special police no longer need to raid the streets; and lawyers in Hong Kong who take on human rights cases have fled.103 Freedom of expression appears intact, but the NSL delimits and repurposes this freedom. Prior to the implementation of the law, Hong Kong’s constitution, effective since the 1997 handover, stated that “Hong Kong residents shall enjoy the other rights and freedoms safeguarded by the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.”104 The NSL declares a similar commitment to the protection of political freedoms and human rights but, crucially, only in the service of the state. Article 4 declares that “Human rights shall be respected and protected in safeguarding national security” in Hong Kong.105 The response to this reprioritization has been mixed. For the liberals who live in or have left Hong Kong, the loss of certain freedoms and rights brings with it a sense of unease. For the nationalists who support the NSL, in contrast, the law provides the necessary and reassuring legal means to eradicate any antigovernmental activities that may continue to destabilize society.

The NSL era is marked by an absence of songs that perform overt resistance. It has, however, produced a new category of songs that take as their creative domain that which is outlawed as the “constitutive outside,” to draw on Judith Butler’s concept. Perspectives that might violate the NSL are not repressed but rather foreclosed in the creative process itself.106 According to Jacques Lacan, repression comes with the return of the repressed, which means that “the subject cries out from every pore of his being what he cannot talk about.”107 Yet foreclosure uses as constitutive that which is expelled. In avoiding lyrics that may be interpreted as violating the NSL, songwriters need not repress a desire to assert freedom of expression. Instead, the act of avoidance serves as creative condition.

In the pre-NSL era, achieving the correct linguistic tones was often a sufficient aesthetic condition to sounding right in Cantonese music.108 Sometimes producers played with this aesthetic expectation by featuring mispronunciations as an artistic effect. Faye Wang, a native of Beijing who uses Cantonese as her second language, worked her accented Cantonese into a signature singing style in her Cantopop songs, including 暗湧 (Undercurrents, 1997). Similarly, the vocal group C AllStar’s 2013 song 差詞 (Poorly Written Lyrics) provides self-conscious examples of infelicitous lyrics whose linguistic tones sound deliberately erroneous to Cantonese listeners.109 In the NSL era, in contrast, the correct reproduction of political overtones rather than simply linguistic tones is the new criterion for sounding right. These songs refrain from exploring mispronunciations as an aesthetic experiment. Rather, they sound linguistically right while grasping the bare minimum of sounding the right political tone. These songs sound right by exploring the expressive domain that audiences would consider suggestive yet politically safe. Indeed, some of these songs have maintained and even expanded their artists’ audience bases because they do not polarize audiences.

C AllStar offers a good example of the use of taboos as the constitutive outside for creating its award-winning 2021 Cantopop 留下來的人 (Those Who Stay Behind). The official music video has had more than 3.4 million views since its release on YouTube on April 21, 2021, less than one year after the implementation of the NSL and before a flood of narratives—including Xi’s official one—accounting for the NSL came out in 2022.110 The subject of this song is the wave of Hong Kong diaspora in response to the NSL—the news agency Nikkei Asia estimated in August 2022 that about 113,000 people have left Hong Kong since 2020.111 Through iterations of the character 見 (see) as a keyword and a rhyme legible and audible for Cantonese speakers, the song centers a theme of reunion, expressing a wish for those who stay behind and those who have left to be reunited—to “see” one another—somewhere in the future. Crucially, the song does not mention the NSL’s role in the diaspora and, as such, does not invite listeners to take sides on the NSL. Yet the cause of departure serves as a foreclosed message, which makes clear a gap in the song’s narrative that invites acousmatic listening, a listening in for an unspoken source—not the NSL itself but any sign that might violate the NSL—as something already foreclosed.112

While the absence of oppressed voices in the NSL age signals a successful remaking of a society that privileges national security, the sudden and total disappearance of these voices marks a sonic vacuum. A period characterized by a lack of noisy protest constitutes a new temporality that disrupts the weekly protest rhythm of 2019. Using a Foucauldian optic, Rey Chow might claim that this new temporality renders the inaudible voices visible.113 Meanwhile, while this absence of oppressed voices suggests the end of political unrest, new uses of the Cantonese language outside Hong Kong by the global Cantonese communities indicate other forms of “sounding right” in the NSL era. For example, the “Save Cantonese” campaign launched by students and alumni of Stanford University raised $1.6 million donated primarily by a businessman in Hong Kong in 2021 to secure the teaching of Cantonese for students at the university. A listening practice grounded in acousmatic listening helps to understand a deep source that has driven seemingly unrelated, circumstantial cultural changes that develop the use of the Cantonese language, including Cantopop released in the NSL era and language courses outside Hong Kong for global Cantonese communities. Acousmatic listening enables one to hear the absence of taboos that might be outlawed by the NSL. Those who share the acousmatic ear recognize the apparent absence of politically sensitive elements in contemporary Cantopop, and may explain it as a consequence of self-censorship. Those familiar with the work of Lacan and Butler may even explain the apparent absence as the effect of foreclosure.

Such processes of recognition build a global collective of listeners, including those who still live in Hong Kong and those who have left the territories. Understanding that taboos arising from the implementation of the NSL are not repressed but carefully foreclosed enables listeners to appreciate advanced lyric writing while acknowledging the emergence of a global community in the new political order that adopts the same acousmatic listening skill. Listening to music in such an effortful way might be taxing or cause discomfort for those who equate Cantopop with easy listening, which is the antithesis of listening for deep meaning. Yet this listening practice in a historically and politically transitional and contingent context constitutes a crucial component in music as oral culture, critical as it has been for listeners who needed timely narratives to make sense of an epochal event. In this sense, acousmatic listening may serve cross-border community-building purposes other than simply empathy or enjoyment. In the midst of multiple narratives that characterize a change, listening acousmatically to Cantopop such as C AllStar’s 2021 song thus calls attention to the gaps and silences. This listening technique also addresses a need for storytelling that helps make sense of the NSL. The short production cycle of Cantopop has enabled faster responses to the political situation than what is possible through scholarly monographs, trade books, and films. And the use of Cantonese lyrics in Cantopop to tell stories adds a sonic dimension irreplaceable by print media. But it is the sound of the Cantonese language that builds a transborder listening community, and it is the narrative gaps in Cantopop that build transborder intimacy, making these songs sound and resound across global Cantonese listeners at scale: most know how to practice just sounding right.114

Pablo Palomino

I approached the history of Latin American music as a cultural historian in dialogue with ethnomusicology and a tradition of Latin Americanist intellectual and political reflection. I grew interested in theoretical constructions of the global in music history through a journey across different academic and cultural contexts: from my native Buenos Aires, where I began to reflect, against the prevailing methodological nationalism of the 2000s, on transnational approaches to Latin American music; to my doctoral studies at the University of California, Berkeley, during which I discovered archives in many places within and beyond Latin America; then to Chicago, where I explored the diverse connotations of the term “Latin” in US history; and finally to Atlanta, where I finished my book, as I developed a Latin Americanist and Caribbeanist curriculum at Emory University’s Oxford College. The term “global” became ubiquitous, but its meaning varied in each context. At the same time, this intellectual journey through archives and bibliographies, as idiosyncratic as any other, suggests that the “global turn” is not a fashion but stems from the very intellectual and material conditions of our practice. The question posed by this forum has thus haunted me for many years: how to build concepts that capture the complexity of global music history without reifying it in either abstruse or simplistic conceptualizations?

The Region as a Project

Conversations about Latin American music always reflect wider intellectual and political interpretations of the region as a whole and its place in the world. For example, whether or not Spanish pop singer Rosalía can legitimately perform as a Latina, or the extent to which the Venezuelan Sistema of youth orchestras perpetuates Eurocentric (i.e., supposedly not Latin American) ideas of culture, are musical discussions that involve conflicting ways of situating this region in global history.115 There is an unexamined idea of “Latin America” as a de facto legitimate historical concept underlying these interpretive battles. Both in common parlance and in academic research the region is invoked as self-evident.

Inertia among Latin Americanists and in public parlance perpetuates the self-evident, naturalized region. Hence, when Latin American music appears, for example, in the multicultural curriculum, it does so as a token, expected to authentically signify a clearly delimited cultural reality. The signifier (“Latin American music”), the signified (the numerous musics of the region we conventionally call Latin America), and their relationship are taken for granted in a seemingly neutral geo-cultural-musical classification. Since the conceptualization of “Latin America” in 1836 as the Latin and Catholic strand of European civilization (opposed to the Anglo Protestant one, both in turn bound to encounter their ultimate other: the Asian civilization), the “allure” of the racializing discourse associated with it has seemed irresistible.116

But defining the region is in fact a challenge. Three hundred years of Iberian rule certainly gave unity to a region that for the preceding millennia did not exist and that would be fragmented during the ensuing two centuries of independent life. From a global comparative perspective, Latin America’s Iberian imprint gives the region a homogeneous outlook when observed next to the immense internal disparities of Europe, Asia, and Africa.117 In academia, however, the region is the product of a romantic, racializing essentialism concocted over more than two centuries in Europe and the United States, blind both to the vast contrasts (demographic, cultural, political, economic, environmental, and aesthetic) within the region and to the region’s myriad and disparate entanglements with the rest of the world. Even “decolonial” definitions contribute to this essentialism. Indigenous activists condemning the colonial meaning of “Latin America” propose instead the Panamanian Kuna term Abya Yala (land in full maturity or land of vital blood) to designate the entire continent, signaling the persistence of Indigenous pre-Columbian worldviews in the twenty-first century.118 But these definitions also perpetuate the essentializing Anglo-Latin divide by naming the United States and Canada Abya Yala del Norte. What would make any musical practice in this part of the world “Latin American”?

A different approach is to consider the region as a project—more precisely, as the historical sedimentation of multiple projects, one of them being the musical Latin Americanism. “Latin American music” itself appears as multiple aesthetic projects: sometimes in opposition to Iberia and sometimes in continuity with it; as quintessentially folkloric but also massively commercial; as popular expression and as a source of unique modernisms. The first systematic attempt to organize musical and musicological resources at a regional scale, the Boletín Latino-Americano de Música (Latin American Music Bulletin, 1935–46), led by Francisco Curt Lange, contained elements of all these contradictory definitions. It also maintained ambiguous relations with the United States, a country Lange and his colleagues wanted to incorporate into their network. The Boletín was the first explicit formulation of a Latin Americanist discourse in the terrain of culture—the fine arts, literature, cinema, and others came afterwards.119 This musical region is thus young (less than a century old), remaining open to new definitions. It is therefore more a project than an established tradition. During the twentieth century multiple projects (compositive, institutional, economic, mediatic, intellectual, ideological) pragmatically demarcated a specific transnational region within the world and elaborated legitimate discourses about music, in ways that were ambiguous enough to be productively transmitted over time and adopted by varied actors.

Conflicting Projects

Since the late nineteenth century, transnational networks have articulated, on the one hand, national systems of musical identity, taste, and markets, and on the other, varied systems of empire and globalization. In between these two types of systems, a musical region emerged. (Not only musical: an array of intellectual, urban, economic, or juridical projects also sought to articulate national specificities and global processes around the idea of a regional experience of modernity.120) The structural sources of regionalist discourses were and are varied: political exile and academic nomadism;121 today’s transnational and multi-sited research, enabled by expanded digitization and air travel; and music scholars’ domestic financial and institutional scarcities, as well as a sense of intellectual mission, which turn them toward transnational collaboration. This can be seen in Lange’s Boletín in the 1930s and 1940s, initially supported by the Uruguayan state and later by public and private institutions throughout the hemisphere; in the International Association for the Study of Popular Music-Latin American Branch (IASPM-AL) founded in the 1990s; and in the regional focus of national musicological journals, from the long-established Revista Musical Chilena (1945) to the younger Revista Argentina de Musicología (1996). The cross-pollination of national, regional, and inter-American institutions and publishing, in changing political and sociological conditions, made Latin Americanist musical research always a deeply transnational endeavor.

The Latin Americanism of the twentieth century was marked by state and civil society nationalist projects, transnational networks of expertise, and competing ideological programs that, despite their antagonisms, shared an idea of music as the ultimate expression of the “people.” But today’s context is different. Latin American musical practices and their entanglement with the globe are being challenged by at least three powerful forces.

The first challenge is the corporate view of the region as an aesthetic source and as a market for global business headquartered in Miami, New York, and Los Angeles, where both local and nomadic “Latinx” populations and producers shape musical commodities intended for US, hemispheric, and global audiences. This view exoticizes and disseminates “Latin” and “Latin American” music as Hollywood studios did a hundred years ago, but now the music is increasingly performed by and for domestic populations as well (nearly 20 percent of US inhabitants currently self-identify as Latino/a or Hispanic). “Latin Grammy” market categories include “urban,” “tropical,” “Christian,” “Portuguese language,” etc.122 How could a critical Latin Americanism influence this industrial dynamic?

The second challenge is the disdain toward regionalism among right-wing movements in Latin America. The region is for them a nuisance at best, and sometimes a leftist symbol to deride, but not a project to cultivate through music education and promotion. Right-wing politicians’ traditional Cold War, pro-Western, clash-of-civilizations worldview, in both its conservative and liberal-cosmopolitan attitudes, is now giving way to a neofascist rhetoric, paradoxically global and “anti-globalist,” which here, as in the rest of the world, asserts a patriarchal and authoritarian attack against the perceived enemies of inherited hierarchies—secularism, the welfare state, immigration, feminism, gender ideology, cultural Marxism, critical race theory, subaltern identities, etc. This narrative may hinder Latin Americanist musical policies and academic practices if its supporters gain market presence and institutional leverage.

Finally, the third challenge is a negative view of globalization and “Latin America” itself as expressing Western capitalism and its racist epistemology. This “decolonial” perspective questions Eurocentric modernity and therefore Latin America and its regionalism. On the one hand, it unmasks the hierarchies that organize the region’s musical practices, forcing researchers and teachers to inspect our own ethnocentric assumptions and pay attention to experiences of race, gender, and culture occluded by the myths of mestizo nationalisms, which to an extent were modeled after Eurocentric views. But on the other, it overlooks the “anthropophagic” programs, grassroots traditions, and other forms of musical production that are precisely the Latin American way of participating in musical globalization. Since it is unthinkable that a musical form (let alone any cultural form) could be either completely detached from or mechanically reducible to social relations, one must take the “colonial” elements of a musical practice in the terms and relations set by the historical actors, and not through an a priori ontologization of modernity as unchanging racial-capitalist oppression. The decolonial perspective risks thus becoming an antipolitical renunciation.123 And sometimes Latin America is absorbed into an amorphous concept, the Global South, a geopolitical term of technocratic origins that, even when aimed at questioning global inequalities and power hierarchies, also erases specificities, casting doubts over its usefulness in historical and musicological research.

Latin Americanist Musical Scholarship and Global History of Music

Against the ideological challenges of the global as a corporate business strategy, theater of racist fantasies, or denunciation of unchanging sameness, historians of music are exploring the creativity behind the projects that produced “Latin America” as a musical region.124 In my archival work, the actors who modernized the region’s music in the 1930s appeared to perform multiple roles: trying to make a living, like the musicians at the radio orchestras in Mexico City; building the cultural infrastructure of the state, like Mário de Andrade at the São Paulo municipal record collections; and, among many other things, innovating music composition and pedagogy, saving civilization, defending nations, establishing markets, imposing hierarchies, contributing to revolutions. These actors shared a modernizing ethos: the idea that culture and society can be improved through music. This impulse combined Eurocentric languages and prestige hierarchies with an active legitimization of local, national, and pan-regional indigenous, indigenista, African, Afro-national (Afro-Cuban, Afro-Brazilian, etc.), mestizo, and local avant-garde musicking projects, and resulted in the adoption of varied and conflicting criteria to evaluate music.

Depending on their employment and circumstances, musicians in Bogotá or Havana, cities shaped by a whirlwind of capitalist transformations and migrations, may have been relatively better off professionally than their peers in less vibrant cities of Europe or the United States. Yet all these actors—the popular artist, the performer in a radio orchestra, the innovative composer, the policy-oriented musicologist, the music producer, the state pedagogue, the militant musician—found themselves struggling against institutional and economic constraints, similar to the struggles of their peers in other regions. Inequalities of professional opportunities between centers and peripheries occurred both in individual countries and across regions, and changed over time. The institutionalization of opera houses and concert systems in the Americas, for example, followed a transnational dynamic that requires looking north, south, east, and west simultaneously, because they developed at different times in different places within Latin America.125 This musical cartography is too diverse to be captured by any transhistorical dichotomy.126 “Global music history” should be thus a common home for specialists working in and on multiple geographies to share linkages, circuits, and overlapping histories, a home in which musical value or “excellence” is contextual to these spatial and temporal mappings, and not something we can take for granted.

Latin American music has been reinvented continuously over the past fifty years in overlap with US-Latin music. Historians have shown, for example, that Argentine musicians like Lalo Schifrin became Latin American by adopting Afro-Cuban music styles in the United States, which also suggests that Latin American music is both foreign and domestic to the United States, a country that absorbed through (musical) immigration its conflicts and relations with the rest of the world as it created its own global hegemony.127 Elsewhere, the “Latin American music” invented in the 1930s and 1940s was also engaged by understudied “Asian” musical actors. Filipino entertainers, Japanese youth, and post-Mao elderly Chinese, among others, added new meanings to “Latin-American music” through their unique adoptions of, for example, mambo, salsa, and tango.128 These meanings were both real (the material history of migrating music instruments, records, and performers) and imagined (Latin America as otherness) for audiences and artists in other regions.

Finding a perfect match between place and music in Latin America is, paraphrasing Schifrin’s famous tune, an impossible mission. Latin American musics (in plural) demand that we shift “the scale of our awareness and knowledge bases beyond what feels like ‘home.’”129 This means looking in the archive for the transnational and cross-regional musical exchanges, business, and migrations that invented this regional home in foreign places. From a Latin Americanist perspective, thus, global music history is a history of the material and symbolic circulations among and through which regions constitute themselves. These circulations may comprise a single global ecology of musics, as Chua suggests,130 or may be many ecologies linked to one another in unexpected ways. In either case, regions have historically been a powerful way of demarcating musical practices within these ecologies. The example of “Latin American music” reveals the deep ideological tensions and discomforts behind the very representation of a region. My elaboration on it follows Bissett Perea’s suggestion in this forum, based on intertribal visiting protocols: we should take time to ask ourselves how we relate intellectually and professionally to the musical practices we study in order to make explicit the implicit geographies (and our implicit position in them) through which we approach those practices.

Daniel F. Castro Pantoja

Intimacy builds worlds; it creates spaces and usurps places meant for other kinds of relation.

—Lauren Berlant131

To think through/with/around (dis)comfort in global music history research is to reflect on the politics of scale. In short, pursuing the large-scale orientations driving global music history runs the risk of downplaying the impact of small-scale events and the agency of individual historical actors.132 Too much focus on identifying similarities and convergences across large temporalities and spaces may lead scholars to ignore historical outliers that can only be detected by zooming in on the microdynamics of social life. Furthermore, moments of schizophonia and the erotics of sound can intensify the perception that we inhabit a boundless and interconnected space with no outside (i.e., an impossible totality such as “the global”), a frame that could potentially depoliticize our historical narratives in favor of what Sebastian Conrad calls global history’s “obsession with mobility and movement.”133

There is, therefore, a need not only to historicize what Roland Robertson calls “globality” (i.e., a “consciousness of the world as a whole”) but also to develop alternative scales to study the workings of music and sound in the making of the global past(s).134 Turning toward comfort and intimacy, as I show, constitutes one way to do this. Indeed, whereas “the global” conjures spatially extended-interconnected phenomena, the idea of comfort elicits sensations and intimate memories of what happens in small-scale spaces or inside the walls of one’s home. After all, the social reproduction of comfort as an index of modernity across many liberal societies was key in positioning the private sphere as a secluded and sanitized interior space that is central to social life.135 This holds true in Bogotá, where I wrote the bulk of this article, and where the desire for bourgeois comfort played a major part in the domestication of social space.136

My main argument is that listening for intimacy—which can be discomforting to some—turns our attention to the “play of scales” that unfolds in the exercise of historicizing the global music pasts.137 In what follows, I first survey studies of scale in global history. I then explain how intimacy operates as a historical scale to argue that listening for it represents not only a way to “play with scales” in global music history but also an inquiry into the issue of interpreting scales in history vis-à-vis the spatialization of global musical pasts.138

Scale and Global History

The study of the politics of scale in the humanities and social sciences predates the emergence of the recent global history turn upon which global music history actively builds.139 Paradoxically, references to musical metaphors like counterpoint and musical scales were key to denaturalizing sedimented conceptions of geographical scale when these discussions first took place.140 For heuristic purposes, I use the term “scale” (e.g., the body, the local, regional, national, global) as both a social construct and an object of research that broadly refers to the representation of a socially produced area that unfolds within a constructed temporal frame.141 This socially produced area accounts for the relation between factors such as size (population, spatial, economic), level (domestic, urban, rural), culture, geopolitics, and environment.142

Even though most scholars today rightly subscribe to a constructionist framework and do not grant scale an ontological status, Sallie Marston has noted that scale continues to show up in scholarship as a fixed container of action that reproduces hierarchical divisions between scales (e.g., granting more political importance to the global than to the regional).143 One of the consequences of this usage, for example, has been the effacing of spaces like the household, which scholars often treat as a gendered and unaccounted space for social reproduction vis-à-vis the state or the global.144 Because of this, Marston and other geographers have even called for scale to be abandoned altogether and replaced instead with what they call a “flat ontology,” an approach that prioritizes complex spatial relations that complicate facile scalar categorization as a means to “problematize axiomatic tendencies to stratify and classify geographic objects.”145

Recently, historians such as Christian De Vito have also tried to do away with scale, owing to its multiple connotations that can make historical analysis a messy matter.146 For example, because scale can refer to both the geographical extension (say, local or global) of historical processes and the historiographical lens (say, micro or macro) through which such geographical processes are interpreted, some analyses conflate the local with the micro and the global with the macro. To circumvent this issue, De Vito proposes to pursue what he calls a “microspatial history”—that is, a history that focuses not on scale (on local music, for instance) but on the study of concrete actors and objects and their interaction with space-making and history. A microspatial history is one that rejects predetermined spatial and historical units in favor of engaging with the spatial and historical categories used by historical actors themselves, but not without losing sight of the social role of history and historians. Microspatial history, according to De Vito, is thus an approach that brings together “the epistemological perspective of microhistory and the spatially sensitive methodology of global history.”147

De Vito’s call for a microspatial history is a productive one. Yet I do not believe that global music history research can do away with scale altogether given its aspirations to decenter and disarticulate imperial and colonial world-making projects.148 After all, many actors, including nation-states and empires, have mobilized and reified different scales as representational tropes for variegated political and economic purposes. We must therefore pay close attention to the symbolic and material consequences of thinking globality (even if it is to refuse it), as well as to the ontological and epistemological implications that naturalizing the global has produced vis-à-vis other scales (i.e., the play of scales). Writing about his discomfort with the idea of Latin America and even the Global South, Palomino gives us hints on how to deal intelligently with sedimented understandings of space in his contribution to this forum.

To study the politics of scale does not mean that we must solely stick to standard geographical scales (local, national, global) in our analyses nor that we must reject the incorporation of flat ontologies and microspatial histories as potentially productive methods for global music history. Rather, we can attend to the “play of scales” while also creatively “playing with scales,” an approach that prompts the study of alternative temporalities and spatialities that result from “engaging relationally with processes that are made powerful by the existence or erasure of borders.”149

This is why feminist geographers have treated scale not as a fixed container of action but rather as a “leaky category” with overlapping limits.150 Indeed, locating the body as the finest of scales or coming up with counterintuitive categories such as the “global intimate” has allowed feminist scholars to subvert the coded hierarchies of scale and the essentialisms attached to them. As it will become clear in the next section, intimacy works as a “leaky” scale in the exercise of writing history.

Listening for Intimacy as Scale

According to Sara Ahmed, bodies acquire their shape by facing reiteratively toward a given direction. The capacity of a body to perform an action such as reaching out to an object (including objects of desire) depends not so much on its inherent capacities but on a form of space-making reliant on the perception that the “world is available as a space for action.”151 This repeated orientation retroactively creates the conditions that lead to a space feeling familiar or like home. Ahmed calls this process of (re)inhabiting a space a “homing device,” precisely because it marks the “home” as the “here” where the body dwells, and therefore establishes the home as a departure point or as a place of return.152

If bodies take the form of the direction they repeatedly face, then one could propose that the global takes this paradigm to the limit. Indeed, if the global is predicated on the metaphor of a planetary totality that functions as a homing device, the “here” of the global might then deceptively appear as a rootless and boundless space, hiding the seams of its very contingency. But what happens to bodies when they face everywhere? Do they stretch in all directions? Do they become spheric, hollow, torn apart? Reflecting on the workings of comfort in the body can provide some answers to these questions.

Phenomenologically, writes Ahmed, comfort “is the effect of bodies being able to ‘sink’ into spaces that have already taken their shape.”153 Comfort, therefore, depends on what Ahmed calls a “feeling fetishism,” whereby “some bodies can ‘have’ comfort, only as an effect of the work of others.”154 To feel comfortable stands not only for the “self-conscious satisfaction with one’s immediate domestic physical environment”155 but also the feeling of being “so at ease with one’s environment that it is hard to distinguish where one’s body ends and the world begins.”156 Comfort, then, can be understood as a form of world-making, produced through previous acts of domestication that are concealed from view, and whose purpose is to create the fantasy of a “null state of extension.”157

To feel discomfort, conversely, is to experience one’s body as out of place, a disorienting effect of “inhabiting norms differently” noticeable when a particular spatial arrangement fails.158 Discomfort, put differently, happens when a body tries to enter a space that has already taken the shape of others (e.g., as a couch takes the shape of a person who has been sitting on it repeatedly).159 Soreness and pain (discomfort) result when bodies do not quite fit into normative spaces (e.g., when a queer person tries to fit in a heteronormative space), and they ultimately “return one’s attention to the surfaces of the body as body.160 This raises questions: When does the global fail as an arrangement? When does it stop or begin feeling familiar?

The Latin root of the word “intimate”—intimare—means, for Mountz and Hyndman, “to impress or make familiar.”161 This is the reason why intimacy is often described as unfolding “within zones of familiarity and comfort.”162 Intimacy, however, is also a space constituted by negative emotions such as shame, embarrassment, and betrayal. Intimacy, we can say, is thus a space and a moment that unfolds between the comfort of the normative (personal, sexual, national, global) and the lived realities of failing to follow this norm to the dot (i.e., the effects of a failed arrangement or discomfort). Lauren Berlant evocatively sums this up when she writes that the secret epitaph of intimacy is “I didn’t think it would turn out this way.”163 This secrecy also speaks to the concealment that lay behind the production of the ideology of comfort, which, as Tomas Maldonado notes, not only placed special emphasis on the pleasures of private life but was also a mechanism meant to “block the excessive instability of the family.”164

But intimacy does not unfold solely within the comfort of the domestic; there are also expectations of intimacy in the promised comfort of institutional spaces and even in larger political communities such as the nation-state. Michael Herzfeld notes, for instance, that identification with a nation-state depends largely on the “‘transmutation’ of private sentiments into public acts,” such that belonging to a nation becomes familial belonging.165 This transference paradoxically exposes the national community to the darker aspects of familial relationships, including shameful histories. This brings Herzfeld to conclude that the idealized symbols that grant nations legitimacy in a global modernity are always produced dialectically in relation to the imperfect and discomforting elements that make up the “privacy of nations” and the “sore zones of cultural sensitivity,” elements that are nonetheless crucial to creating an intense feeling of communitas.166

Might we, then, conceive of intimacy as an aesthetic of attachment, one “that poses a question of scale that links the instability of individual lives to the trajectories of the collective”?167 After all, it was the migration of intimacy from the public into the private that transformed the public as the space par excellence for rational decision-making in many liberal societies. As part of this process, the desire of privacy and intimacy became anchored to the domestic and feminine, while the public became masculinized.168

The gendering of the private space demonstrates why the category of the global intimate can serve to denaturalize these scales, revealing to us how the global is constituted by the intimate and vice versa.169 To center the global intimate implies a subversion of masculinist tropes that render the global as “‘hypermasculine’ in force, prevailing, and ready to penetrate the local.”170 Moreover, turning to the global intimate questions the local/global binary wherein the local is framed as personal and separated from the global, which in turn is framed as a stand-in for the structural. In a paradigmatic example, Kimberly Chang and Lily Ling have studied how the illusion of a white-collar transnational and mobile work force is built on the labor of domestic, migrant women “who must contend with low-wage menial labor, enforced intimacy, and incarcerating daily routine.”171

Furthermore, replacing the local/global binary with intimacy enables a play with scales precisely because of intimacy’s aesthetics of attachment, which bridges individual emotions with the collective. Whispers, gossip, tacitly acknowledged secrets, and internal jokes become agents that use the erotic efficacies of sound to both stabilize and disarticulate local and translocal networks of people and the discursive-affective worlds that sustain them. Cultural intimacy, for example, at times escapes the comfort zones of the nation and erupts into public life, taking the form of negative self-stereotypes that can paradoxically bind a community together through ironic pride (e.g., laughing at a self-deprecating joke in times of political upheaval).172 The exposure of intimacy, or fear thereof, to an international audience can provoke defensiveness and discomfort among loyal nationalists or agents of empire, who have no choice but to double-down on the essentialisms and the often impossible claims that inform identity, especially within larger political communities. As explored in Wangpaiboonkit’s contribution to this forum, these acts of creative self-invention can come to function as indices of sovereignty/coloniality in a fine-tuned system of aural recognition that at once fetishizes and rejects difference within a global modernity.173

Centering intimacy, therefore, constitutes not just a way of zooming in and out (from the micro to the macro) but a way to hear the entanglements of the global and other scales in, say, the performance of unofficial sonic emblems of a postcolonial nation-state in public places (e.g., “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” in the United States during the George Floyd protests) or in the silences and sounds of labor in everyday global life (e.g., the gendered and racialized dynamics at play in the simulation of human and local-sounding customer service agents in global communication companies).174 Put differently, external embarrassment, shame, and guilt—which hold together local and translocal identities from within the comfort of the boundaries of these identities—can potentially drive forward the circulation of sounds and ideas that may allow the conception of the global in the first place.

Global Music History and Its Intimacies

In this forum, Bissett Perea and Carrico lay out effective ways to reject settler colonial and ableist regimes as potential homing devices for global music history research. But can we speak of an already existing intimate zone of global music history? Where and what are its limits? What are those tacitly acknowledged secrets and negative self-stereotypes that bind us uncomfortably together as a community of scholars with an ear oriented toward global processes? If we can speak of such a zone, how do we perform these disciplinary intimacies? Do they show up cryptically in our writings, anxiously awaiting to be exposed?

Let us also not forget that as scholars of music and sound we are particularly equipped with the tools to listen for institutional and power-laden intimacies. We are more than capable of exposing zones of discomfort that disrupt grand narratives of global relations. Of course, this comes at the expense of inviting others to be privy to our scholarly and personal intimacies. And yet, this might very well prompt us to engage (to use Herzfeld’s words) in a process “of rueful self-recognition,” a process that includes poking fun at the positive and negative stereotypes that have come to characterize global music history research.175 These stereotypes, as some have written, range from a shared utopian desire for the democratization of the field of musicology worldwide, to the opinion that we might very well be rebranding world music, or naively (even not so naively) contributing to the recolonization of the field in the name of the global.176

In my case (and here I follow Bissett Perea’s suggestion that we introduce ourselves vis-à-vis discomforting questions around home, projects, and peoples), this would mean to disclose my personal and professional relationships with global music history research as a straight, middle-class, Pastuso-Bogotano/Colombian (white) mestizo/Latin American/Latine scholar with a complicated visual disability, currently on a work visa granted by the government of the United States to do musicology in a site of meeting and exchange of native communities, especially of Keyauwee and Saura peoples (currently occupied by the University of North Carolina, Greensboro). In the spirit driving this forum, below I share some discomforting intimacies and briefly describe how they connect and conflict with how I relate to my own home, projects, and peoples.

The first intimacy I share is that when I was elected co-convenor of the American Musicological Society’s Global Music History study group (I did not nominate myself), I had very little knowledge about this emerging field. I accepted the role as a strategy to accrue cultural and social capital when I had to migrate back to Bogotá when the tenure-track position I was offered at the University of Houston was canceled at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though I have found an intellectual “home” in global music history studies, because of my Marxist political genealogy (after all, my PhD advisor, Leonora Saavedra, and my mother, Nancy Pantoja Cifuentes, are Marxists), I am wary of the potentially depoliticizing move of using the global as a primary orientation in music research.177

I do not think that global music history, however, is necessarily a universalizing, Westernized enterprise nor a call to disengage with the politics of one’s home—two common stereotypes that have quickly become tied to the identity of global music history studies. For instance, although some of my work has been accepted for publication precisely because it deals with global music history, I am still committed to researching mestizo (mixed-race) colonization in the Putumayo region (where much of my mother’s family relocated in the 1930s and ’40s). I am also committed to (re)learning Nariñense Andean Spanish (a transculturated linguistic system that features elements of Andean Spanish, Quechua, Kichwa, and Inga), which my mother spoke at home, herself an (internal) migrant born and raised in Pasto, Nariño (a city near the border with the nation-state of Ecuador). I did not learn Nariñense in school since its usage is still deemed as non-normative, while the Pastuso accent was, and still is, made fun of in Bogotá, the city where I grew up. This negative stereotype is the result of center-periphery colonization dynamics still resonant in the multicultural and pluriethnic nation-state of Colombia. Finally, despite my emotional attachments to the many homes described above, I am also reminded, from personal experience, that a home is not always a safe place. I am cautious not to idealize it, to prioritize the politics of home, or to desire its comforts.


Discomfort has been on peoples’ minds in the humanities and social sciences, and it was the topic of a roundtable session (“Centering Discomfort in Global Music History,” the starting point for this forum) sponsored by the AMS Global Music History Study Group (GMHSG) at the annual meeting of the American Musicological Society in 2021, as well as a pre-conference symposium, “In Discomfort,” that the graduate-student-led coalition Project Spectrum organized at the 2022 AMS-SEM-SMT joint meeting.


“About the Ho-Chunk Nation Government,” website of the Ho-Chunk Nation, accessed March 6, 2023,


I borrow this phrase from the acknowledgment made during the symposium “Settler Colonialism in the United States,” which Alexa Woloshyn organized at Carnegie Mellon University on September 7, 2019. “Settler Colonialism in the United States,” on Alexa Woloshyn’s personal website, accessed April 14, 2023,


Tony Ballantyne and Antoinette Burton, “Postscript: Bodies, Genders, Empires: Reimagining World Histories,” in Bodies in Contact: Rethinking Colonial Encounters in World History, ed. Antoinette Burton and Tony Ballantyne (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005), 405–23, at 406–7.


Calvin Martin, “The Four Lives of a Micmac Copper Pot,” Ethnohistory 22 (1975): 111–33, at 113–15, 122.


Nicolas Denys, The Description and Natural History of the Coasts of North America (Acadia), trans. and ed. William F. Ganong (Toronto: Champlain Society, 1908), 2:440, quoted in Martin, “Four Lives,” 115.


The Mi’kmaq Nation’s website shares a story map based on Mi’kmaq scholar Ruth Whitehead’s description of the six worlds, the last of which (the “World Above the Sky”) leads to the land of the dead. Araminta Star Matthews, “The Six Worlds of the Mi’kmaq,” Spirituality and Religious Beliefs of the Mi’kmaq, October 18, 2021,


Rey Chow, Not Like a Native Speaker: On Languaging as a Postcolonial Experience (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014), 9.


See Olivia Bloechl, with Melanie Lowe, “Introduction: Rethinking Difference,” in Rethinking Difference in Music Scholarship, ed. Olivia Bloechl, Melanie Lowe, and Jeffrey Kallberg (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 1–52, at 1–4, 9–35.


The concept of world music is so tied to an older ethno/musicological division of musicking into European-based classical musics (“music”) and everything else (“world music”) that it is very hard, though not impossible, to recuperate without reiterating these divisions. For a history of the term, see Bruno Nettl, “On World Music as a Concept in the History of Music Scholarship,” in The Cambridge History of World Music, ed. Philip V. Bohlman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 23–54.


Judith Madera, “Early Black Worldmaking: Body, Compass, and Text,” American Literary History 33 (2021): 481–97, at 482.


Do not worry, I deliberately use “intertribal” in a radically inclusive way here to refer to everyone, all of us, in spite of the fact that musicology is a predominantly non-Native space. My intention in using it here is twofold: first, to reinforce Native and Indigenous values of relationality and responsibility between and across tribes; and second, to assert intertribalism as Indigenizing academic spaces through the application of a Native organizing strategy.


My reasoning for bracketing [our] and [we] throughout this article is to draw attention to the need for but the never fully realized potential of collectivity, in the field of musicology and elsewhere. Just as practices of consent must be understood as necessarily iterative—requiring regular practices of returning and reaffirming—so too must collective identifications of “our” or “we.”


“Peoples” is purposefully capitalized and pluralized when referring to English-language terms for Indigenous Peoples (e.g., Alaska Native Peoples, American Indian Peoples, Native American Peoples, etc.) as a deliberate writing convention that refuses historic and ongoing objectifications of our beings and instead uplifts our distinct and international human rights as citizens of Nations, not racialized minorities contained within or possessed by colonial nation-states. See Jessica Bissett Perea, Sound Relations: Native Ways of Doing Music History in Alaska (New York: Oxford University Press, 2021), 251n29.


My formulation of a Peoples, places, projects framework is indebted to the work of Yup’ik scholar Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley, particularly his explanations of the Yupiaq worldview, or philosophy Yuuyaraq (from yuk [human being] + yaraq [the way to be / way to live]). Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley, A Yupiaq Worldview: A Pathway to Ecology and Spirit (Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, 1995), 12–36. Regarding the triad of logics I use Noonuccal, Quandamoopah, and Bidjara scholar Karen Martin and Booran Mirraboopa’s “Ways of Knowing, Being and Doing: A Theoretical Framework and Methods for Indigenous and Indigenist Re-search,” Journal of Australian Studies 27, no. 76 (2003): 203–14. My use of Indigelogics here riffs on George E. Lewis’s “Improvised Music after 1950: Afrological and Eurological Perspectives,” Black Music Research Journal 16 (1996): 91–122; see Bissett Perea, Sound Relations, 29, 259. For more on questions of “who,” see Douglas L. Medin and Megan Bang, Who’s Asking? Native Science, Western Science, and Science Education (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2014); and Ewout Frankema, Gagan Sood, and Heidi Tworek, “Editors’ Note: Global History after the Great Divergence,” Journal of Global History 16 (2021): 1–3. Many thanks to Hedy Law for sharing the latter piece.


My framing of “densities of relationality” builds on work by fellow critical Indigenous scholars regarding the specific topic of Indigeneity, specifically: Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom through Radical Resistance (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017); Stephanie Nohelani Teves, Defiant Indigeneity: The Politics of Hawaiian Performance (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2018); and Maile Arvin, Possessing Polynesians: The Science of Settler Colonial Whiteness in Hawai‘i and Oceania (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2019).


In spaces populated by predominantly Native Peoples, I would also name my grandparents and great-grandparents.


See Donna Haraway, “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective,” Feminist Studies 14 (1988): 575–99, at 590, 581, emphasis added.


Kawagley explains how Yuuyaraq stems from Yupiit lands, waters, and lives, and a person learns it “from having lived the life of a Yupiaq and having been tutored by the people who embody it.” Kawagley, Yupiaq Worldview, 11.


Medin and Bang, Who’s Asking?, 15.


Many scholars debate the usefulness or appropriateness of the term “decolonizing” in contexts that do not involve the concrete rematriation of stolen Indigenous lands, as argued by Eve Tuck (Unangax̂) and K. Wayne Yang in “Decolonization Is Not a Metaphor,” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 1 (2012): 1–40. Some Indigenous scholars instead opt to use the word “anticolonial” to signal academic work aligned with decolonial methods; see Max Liboiron’s Pollution Is Colonialism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2021), 26 and passim. I use the verb form of “decolonizing” as an unfolding and emerging Indigenous Peoples project, following writing by Linda Tuhiwai Smith and K. Wayne Yang (writing as his avatar la paperson). See Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples (London: Zed Books, 1999); and la paperson, A Third University Is Possible (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017).


See Robin D. G. Kelley, “On the Density of Black Being,” in Scratch, ed. Christine Kim (New York: Studio Museum of Harlem, 2005), 10; and Chris Andersen, “Critical Indigenous Studies: From Difference to Density,” Cultural Studies Review 15, no. 2 (2009): 80–100, at 80.


Kelley, “On the Density of Black Being,” 10, quoted in Andersen, “Critical Indigenous Studies,” 80.


Regarding shifts from damage- to desire-based research, see Eve Tuck, “Suspending Damage: A Letter to Communities,” Harvard Educational Review 79 (2009): 409–27, at 416–24. Regarding “deficient” Indigene narratives, see Maggie Walter and Chris Andersen, Indigenous Statistics: A Quantitative Research Methodology (Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2013), 16.


It is certainly possible that there are more than sixteen, but at this early stage in researching Native American presence in music studies research, this is the working number confirmed by my colleagues.


See Wendy Wickwire, “Theories of Ethnomusicology and the North American Indian: Retrospective and Critique,” Canadian University Music Review / Revue de musique des universités canadiennes 6 (1985): 186–221; and Dylan Robinson, Hungry Listening: Resonant Theory for Indigenous Sound Studies (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2020).


J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, “‘A Structure, Not an Event’: Settler Colonialism and Enduring Indigeneity,” Lateral 5, no. 1 (2016),


For ways to go beyond a land acknowledgment, see the Native Governance Center’s “Beyond Land Acknowledgment: A Guide,” September 21, 2021, Some additional resources include: Native Land Digital, accessed April 18, 2023,; Whose Land, accessed April 18, 2023,; and Robert Lee et al., “Land-Grab Universities: A High Country News Investigation,” High Country News, originally published March 2020,


See Maile Arvin, “Analytics of Indigeneity,” in Native Studies Keywords, ed. Stephanie Nohelani Teves, Andrea Smith, and Michelle Raheja (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2015), 119–29, at 120; and Kauanui, “‘A Structure, Not an Event.’”


In longer versions of this opening section I also include a thorough accounting of Peoples outside of my immediate family, such as teachers and professional mentors, following Renee Pualani Louis, “Welina (Greetings),” in Kanaka Hawai‘i Cartography: Hula, Navigation, and Oratory (Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2017), xv–xx; and Teresia Teaiwa, “The Ancestors We Get to Choose: White Influences I Won’t Deny,” in Theorizing Native Studies, ed. Audra Simpson and Andrea Smith (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014), 43–55.


Beth Rose Middleton Manning, “Returning the Homelands: Successes in Indigenous Land Repatriation/Rematriation,” guest lecture at the University of California, Davis, November 7, 2019.


Susan McClary references Hayden White’s observation of this extractivist tendency in “Feminine Endings at Twenty,” TRANS: Revista Transcultural de Música 15 (2011): 1–10, at 5. See Hayden White, “Form, Reference, and Ideology in Musical Discourse,” in Music and Text: Critical Inquiries, ed. Steven Paul Scher (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 288–319, at 318–19.


The Peoples and communities named here are just some of the many historically excluded populations, within academia broadly and musicology more specifically; they are also those with, by, and for whom my collaboratory primarily works. Your own introductions should name and center your Peoples and community priorities.


Tuhiwai Smith, “Twenty-Five Indigenous Projects,” Decolonizing Methodologies, 142–62. Tuhiwai Smith’s most recent edition includes a new chapter, “Twenty Further Projects”; see Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, 3rd ed. (London: Zed Books, 2021), 187–214.


John-Carlos Perea, “Jim Pepper, Don Cherry, and the Globalization of American Indian Ways of Doing Jazz, 1969–1974,” presentation for the Music Studies Colloquium hosted by the University of California, Berkeley, November 19, 2021.


Simpson, As We Have Always Done, 165.


Janice Cindy Gaudet, “Keeoukaywin: The Visiting Way––Fostering an Indigenous Research Methodology,” Aboriginal Policy Studies 7, no. 2 (2019): 47–64, at 48.


Eve Tuck, Haliehana Stepetin, Rebecca Beaulne-Stuebing, and Jo Billows, “Visiting as an Indigenous Feminist Practice,” Gender and Education 35 (2023): 144–55, at 150.


Sebastian Conrad, What Is Global History? (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016), 5–6.


Daniel K. L. Chua, “Global Musicology: A Keynote without a Key,” Acta Musicologica 94 (2022): 109–26, at 116.


I learned the Indigenous place names from


The term “big M” musicology was used within my graduate program at Florida State University to describe an integrated approach to the study of historical musicology and ethnomusicology.


Nick Walker, “Neurodiversity: Some Basic Terms & Definitions,” Neuroqueer: The Writings of Dr. Nick Walker (blog), accessed May 19, 2022,


Julie Avril Minich, “Enabling Whom? Critical Disability Studies Now,” Lateral 5, no. 1 (2016),


Jay Timothy Dolmage, Academic Ableism: Disability and Higher Education (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2017), 7.


Conrad, What Is Global History?, 4.


Olivia Bloechl, “Editorial,” Eighteenth Century Music 17 (2020): 173–76, at 175.


Johanna Devaney, “Eugenics and Musical Talent: Exploring Carl Seashore’s Work on Talent Testing and Performance,” American Music Review 48, no. 2 (2019): 1–6.


For an important counternarrative to the trope of overcoming, see Robin Wallace, Hearing Beethoven: A Story of Musical Loss and Discovery (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018).


On the changing conceptions surrounding the music of Beethoven and Schumann, for example, as their disabilities progressed, see Alexandria Carrico and Katherine Grennell, Disability and Accessibility in the Music Classroom: A Teacher’s Guide (New York: Routledge, 2022), 66–70.


Chua, “Global Musicology,” 122.


Donovon Thakur et al., “Williams Syndrome and Music: A Systematic Integrative Review,” Frontiers in Psychology 9 (2018): 1–22, at 5,


Thakur et al., “Williams Syndrome and Music,” 18.


See Stephen Malloch and Colwyn Trevarthen, Communicative Musicality: Exploring the Basis of Human Companionship (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009); Patrick E. Savage et al., “Music as a Coevolved System for Social Bonding,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 44 (2021): e59; and Nils Kraus and Guido Hesselmann, “Musicality as a Predictive Process,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 44 (2021): e81.


Christopher Small, Musicking: The Meanings of Performing and Listening (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1998), 9.


Traditional music or trad sessions are informal musical gatherings held in pubs that feature instrumental forms such as jigs, reels, and hornpipes interspersed with the occasional song. Sessions are open to all musicians but can vary in inclusivity based on location and purpose. Trad sessions occur all over the world, making Irish traditional music a global phenomenon.


Cruinniú is a group of musicians from the community who meet on a weekly basis at the University of Limerick to learn and play trad tunes and meet monthly for a session. While in Ireland, I joined Cruinniú and recruited some members to participate in community sessions with the Rovers. I use the term “seemingly” here to acknowledge that while most people in Cruinniú did not present as disabled, this does not mean that some of them did not have invisible disabilities they chose not to disclose.


See Emily Hutcheon and Gregor Wolbring, “‘Cripping’ Resilience: Contributions from Disability Studies to Resilience Theory,” Media/Cultural Journal 16, no. 5 (2013),


“About Krip Hop Nation,” Krip Hop Nation: More Than Just Music, archived at


Chua, “Global Musicology,” 123.


Sean is a pseudonym. This interview was conducted by the author on March 28, 2018.


Tobin Siebers, Disability Theory (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008), 5.


Chua, “Global Musicology,” 114.


Homi K. Bhabha, Our Neighbors, Ourselves: Contemporary Reflections on Survival (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2011).


Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, 4th ed. (New York: Norton, 2006), 17, quoted in Bhabha, Our Neighbors, Ourselves, 8.


Bhabha, Our Neighbors, Ourselves, 9.


Olivia Bloechl diagnosed this issue more than a decade ago in Native American Song at the Frontiers of Early Modern Music (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 23.


See Jen-yen Chen’s response to Thomas Irvine’s claim that archival sources of the eighteenth-century Canton soundscape from Chinese perspectives cannot be found; Jen-yen Chen, review of Listening to China: Sound and the Sino-Western Encounter, 1770–1839, by Thomas Irvine, Music & Letters 102 (2021): 15860, at 160.


“xučyun (Huichin)…extends from what we know today as the Berkeley Hills to the Bay Shore, from West Oakland to El Cerrito. The territory is composed of what we know today as five Bay Area cities—all of Alameda, Berkeley, Emeryville, El Cerrito, and most of Oakland.” See “Ohlone Land: What is xučyun (Huichin)?,” Native American Student Development, University of California, Berkeley, last modified May 10, 2023,


“Music at the Inventions Exhibition, 1885,” Art Journal (1885): 153–56, at 153.


Alexander J. Ellis, “On the Musical Scales of Various Nations,” Journal of the Society of Arts 33 (1885): 485–527, at 506–7.


Alexander J. Ellis, “Appendix: On the Musical Scales of Various Nations,” Journal of the Society of Arts 33 (1885): 1102–12, at 1103–7.


Ellis, “Appendix,” 1105.


On Prisdang, see Tamara Loos, Bones around My Neck: The Life and Exile of a Prince Provocateur (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2016).


See Ellis, “Appendix,” 1105. See also Ellis’s notes in Hermann L. F. Helmholtz, On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music, 2nd English ed., trans. Alexander J. Ellis (New York: Dover, 1954), 556. We do not know Prisdang’s intentions in conveying this information; his encounter with Ellis is recorded in neither Prisdang’s correspondence nor the journal of Nai Kram, one of the musicians present.


Ellis, “Appendix,” 1105.


Ellis, “Appendix,” 1103.


See Thongchai Winichakul, Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1994), 1–19, 81–96.


See David Streckfuss, “The Mixed Colonial Legacy in Siam: The Origins of Thai Racialist Thought, 1890–1910,” in Autonomous Histories, Particular Truths: Essays in Honor of John R. W. Smail, ed. Laurie J. Sears (Madison: University of Wisconsin Center for Southeast Asian Studies, 1993), 123–53.


On the Siamese localization of European practices, see Rachel V. Harrison, “The Allure of Ambiguity: The West and the Making of Thai Identities”; Pattana Kitiarsa, “An Ambiguous Intimacy: Farang as Siamese Occidentalism”’; and Thanes Wongyannava, “Wathakam: The Thai Appropriation of Foucault’s ‘Discourse,’” all in Rachel V. Harrison and Peter A. Jackson, eds., The Ambiguous Allure of the West: Traces of the Colonial in Thailand (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010), 1–36, 57–74, 153–72.


See Tamara Loos, Subject Siam: Family, Law, and Colonial Modernity in Thailand (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006), 1–28.


Thongchai Winichakul, “The Quest for ‘Siwilai’: A Geographical Discourse of Civilizational Thinking in Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth-Century Siam,” Journal of Asian Studies 59 (2000): 528–49, at 531.


See John Garzoli, “The Myth of Equidistance in Thai Tuning,” Analytical Approaches to World Music 4, no. 2 (2015): 1–29; and Nattapol Wisuttipat, “Relative Nature of Thai Traditional Music through its Tuning System,” International Journal of Creative and Arts Studies 2, no. 1 (2015): 86–97.


“Dontri” (Music), Wachirayanwiset 9, no. 37 (1894), 433–36, at 434. The translation is my own.


Phra Apaipolrop, Dontriwithiya (Bangkok: Rongpim Sophon Pipantanakarn, 1912); Wichit Wathakan, The Evolution of Thai Music (Bangkok: Department of Fine Arts, 1942); and Krom Sinlapakon [Department of Fine Arts], Thai Classical Music (Bangkok: Department of Fine Arts, 1961).


See Daniel Chua’s questions “how do we think globally as musicologists?” and “what is music?” in Daniel K. L. Chua, “Global Musicology,” New Sound, no. 50 (2017): 12–16, at 12, 14.


See Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Planetarity,” in Death of a Discipline (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), 71–102.


See Donald K. Emmerson, “‘Southeast Asia’: What’s in a Name?,” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 15 (1984): 1–21.


See Gavin Steingo and Jim Sykes, “Introduction: Remapping Sound Studies in the Global South,” in Remapping Sound Studies, ed. Gavin Steingo and Jim Sykes (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2019), 1–36.


Sebastian Conrad, Introduction to part 3, “A Cultural History of Global Transformation,” in An Emerging Modern World, 1750–1870, ed. Sebastian Conrad and Jürgen Osterhammel (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018), 413–27, at 414.


On “sounding right,” see Chow, Not Like a Native Speaker, 9.


Chua, “Global Musicology: A Keynote,” 120.


On speaking Cantonese in Hong Kong, see Chow, Not Like a Native Speaker, 79–101; on accents, see 108–10.


On the mobility of Cantonese opera, for example, see Nancy Yunhwa Rao, Chinatown Opera Theater in North America (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2017).


On this nexus, see John M. Carroll, The Hong KongChina Nexus: A Brief History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022), 3.


See Michael C. Davis, “Hong Kong Is Part of the Mainland Now: Beijing’s New Security Law Has Stifled the Territory’s Autonomy and Hopes,” Foreign Affairs, July 2, 2020.


“This Law shall apply to offences under this Law committed against the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region from outside the Region by a person who is not a permanent resident of the Region.” The Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, G.N. (E.) 72 of 2020, Art. 38,, emphasis added. On “extraterritorial jurisdiction,” see Angela Huyue Zhang, Chinese Antitrust Exceptionalism: How the Rise of China Challenges Global Regulation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2021), 34–35.


The Law of the People’s Republic of China, Art. 29.


The accusation targeted Hong Kong Watch’s co-founder and chief executive, Benedict Rogers, and prompted then–UK foreign secretary Liz Truss to denounce the action on Twitter as “unjustifiable.” See “Foreign Secretary Issues Statement on the Unjustifiable Action Taken against Hong Kong Watch,” Hong Kong Watch, March 14, 2022,


Carroll, Hong Kong–China Nexus, 60; Kevin Carrico, Two Systems, Two Countries: A Nationalist Guide to Hong Kong (Oakland: University of California Press, 2022), 88–102; Louisa Lim, Indelible City: Dispossession and Defiance in Hong Kong (New York: Riverhead, 2022); and Michael Ng, Political Censorship in British Hong Kong: Freedom of Expression and the Law (1842–1997) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022), 195.


Xi Jinping, “Hold High the Great Banner of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and Strive in Unity to Build a Modern Socialist Country in All Respects: Report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China,” October 16, 2022,


On individual rights and liberalism, see John J. Mearsheimer, The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2018), 9–12.


James Pomfret et al., “A Reuters Special Report: Lawyers Exit Hong Kong as They Face Campaign of Intimidation,” Reuters, December 29, 2022,


The Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, Effective July 1, 1997, May 2021 edition, Ch. III, Art. 38,


The Law of the People’s Republic of China, Art. 4.


On “foreclosure” as a “constitutive outside,” see Judith Butler, “Arguing with the Real,” in Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (New York: Routledge, 1993), 139–68, at 140; on “foreclosure” (Verwerfung), see Jacques Lacan, Écrits: The First Complete Edition in English, trans. Bruce Fink, in collaboration with Héloïse Fink and Russell Grigg (New York: Norton, 2006), 323.


Lacan, Écrits, 322.


On linguistic tones in Cantonese opera singing, see Sau Y. Chan, Improvisation in a Ritual Context: The Music of Cantonese Opera (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1991), 186.


Note that the melodies of about 500 Christian hymns with Cantonese lyrics are out of sync with linguistic tones. The significance of these hymns in the history of Cantonese music requires further investigation. See 普天頌讚 (Hymns of Universal Praise), ed. The Hymnal Union Committee, 9th ed. (Hong Kong: Chinese Christian Literature Council, 1968).


C AllStar, “For Those Who Stay, For Those Who Had Left,” video, 4:14,


Takeshi Kihara, “Hong Kong Population Drops by Record on China’s Grip, COVID Curbs,” Nikkei Asia, August 12, 2022,


On “acousmaticity,” see Rey Chow, A Face Drawn in Sand: Humanistic Inquiry and Foucault in the Present (New York: Columbia University Press, 2021), 117–19.


Chow, A Face Drawn in Sand, 151.


On resounding, see Jean-Luc Nancy, Listening, trans. Charlotte Mandell (New York: Fordham University Press, 2007), 7–8.


Justin Agrelo, “Rosalía and the Blurry Borders of What It Means to Be a Latin Artist,” Mother Jones (blog), October 11, 2019,; and Geoffrey Baker, “El Sistema, ‘The Venezuelan Musical Miracle’: The Construction of a Global Myth,” Latin American Music Review 39 (2018): 160–93.


Mauricio Tenorio-Trillo, Latin America: The Allure and Power of an Idea (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017); Cumbre Continental de Pueblos y Organizaciones Indígenas, “Archivo Abya Yala / Abya Yala Archive,” 2007,; and Alejandro L. Madrid, “Diversity, Tokenism, Non-Canonical Musics, and the Crisis of the Humanities in U.S. Academia,” Journal of Music History Pedagogy 7 (2017): 124–29.


José C. Moya, “Migration and the Historical Formation of Latin America in a Global Perspective,” Sociologias 20 (2018): 24–68.


Fabiana Del Popolom, ed., Los pueblos indígenas en América (Abya Yala): Desafíos para la igualdad en la diversidad (Santiago de Chile: CEPAL, 2017), 21n1.


Pablo Palomino, “Introduction: Music Is Latin American History,” in The Invention of Latin American Music: A Transnational History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020), 1–24, at 14.


Adrián Gorelik, La ciudad latinoamericana: Una figura de la imaginación social del siglo XX (Buenos Aires: Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 2022); Margarita Fajardo, The World That Latin America Created: The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America in the Development Era (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2022); Carlos Altamirano, La invención de Nuestra América: Obsesiones, narrativas y debates sobre la identidad de América Latina (Buenos Aires: Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 2021); Juan Pablo Scarfi, The Hidden History of International Law in the Americas: Empire and Legal Networks (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017); and Fernando Calderón and Manuel Castells, The New Latin America, trans. Ramsey McGlazer (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2020).


For example, Tulio Halperin Donghi, Storia dell’America Latina (Torino: Einaudi, 1967); and Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Enzo Faletto, Dependencia y desarrollo en América latina: Ensayo de interpretación sociológica (Santiago: Instituto latinoamericano de Planificación Económica, 1967).


The official Latin Grammy categories appear on the Latin Recording Academy website, accessed April 23, 2023,


For a critical view of the decolonial perspective, see Santiago Castro-Gómez, El tonto y los canallas: Notas para un republicanismo transmoderno (Bogotá: Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, 2019), esp. 174–211.


For example, Vera Wolkowicz, Inca Music Reimagined: Indigenist Discourses in Latin American Art Music, 1910–1930 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2022); Juan Carlos Poveda Viera, “Hello Friends, cantemos: La música en las representaciones de lo latinoamericano en largometrajes de ficción hollywoodense durante el período de la Política del buen vecino (1933–1945)” (PhD diss., Universidad de Chile, 2019); and Bradley Shope, “Latin American Music in Moving Pictures and Jazzy Cabarets in Mumbai, 1930s–1950s,” in More than Bollywood: Studies in Indian Popular Music, ed. Gregory D. Booth and Bradley Shope (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 201–15.


Claudio E. Benzecry, “An Opera House for the ‘Paris of South America’: Pathways to the Institutionalization of High Culture,” Theory and Society 43 (2014): 169–96, at 181–85; and Mario Roger Quijano Axle, “Zarzuela y ópera en Yucatán (1863–1930): Actividad del teatro lírico y creación local” (PhD diss., Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 2016).


Julio Mendívil, En contra de la música: Herramientas para pensar, comprender y vivir las músicas (Buenos Aires: Gourmet Musical, 2016).


Matthew B. Karush, Musicians in Transit: Argentina and the Globalization of Popular Music (Durham NC: Duke University Press, 2017), 43–52; and Paul A. Kramer, “The Geopolitics of Mobility: Immigration Policy and American Global Power in the Long Twentieth Century,” American Historical Review 123 (2018): 393–438.


We initiated a dialogue about this during panels on “Musical Travels between Latin America and Asia” and “‘Asia–Latin America’ as Performance and Knowledge: Decentering Global Music History in the Twentieth Century” that I co-convened with Yuiko Asaba at the annual conferences in 2021 of the Latin American Studies Association and the Association for Asian Studies respectively. The other panel participants were Yusuke Wajima, Moisés Park, Yeongju Lee, Ketty Wong, Njoroge Njoroge, and Kevin Fellesz.


Bloechl, “Editorial,” 176.


Chua, “Global Musicology: A Keynote,” 114–15.


Lauren Berlant, “Intimacy: A Special Issue,” Critical Inquiry 24 (1998): 281–88, at 282.


This is a paraphrasis of a recent debate between microhistorical and global history approaches in Past & Present. See Giovanni Levi, “Frail Frontiers?,” in “Global History and Microhistory,” ed. John-Paul A. Ghobrial, supplement, Past & Present 242, no. S14 (2019): 37–49. On large-scale spatialities and temporalities in global music history research, see Olivia Bloechl, “Editorial”; and David R. M. Irving, “Rethinking Early Modern ‘Western Art Music’: A Global History Manifesto,” IMS Musicological Brainfood 3, no. 1 (2019): 6–12.


Conrad, What Is Global History?, 226. On the erotics of sound, see Deborah Wong, “Ethnomusicology without Erotics,” Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture 19 (2015): 178–85; and on the global as an impossible totality, see Urs Stäheli, “The Outside of the Global,” CR: The New Centennial Review 3, no. 2 (2003): 1–22.


Roland Robertson, “Global Connectivity and Global Consciousness,” American Behavioral Scientist 55 (2011): 1336–45, at 1340.


Tomas Maldonado, “The Idea of Comfort,” trans. John Cullars, Design Issues 8 (1991): 35–43.


Stefania Gallini and Carolina Castro Osorio, “Modernity and the Silencing of Nature in Nineteenth-Century Maps of Bogotá,” Journal of Latin American Geography 14, no. 3 (2015): 91–125, at 93.


The play of scales or “jeux d’échelles” is attributed to Jacques Revel, whose work has recently been reconsidered in global history. See John-Paul A. Ghobrial, “Introduction: Seeing the World like a Microhistorian,” in “Global History and Microhistory,” ed. John-Paul A. Ghobrial, supplement, Past & Present 242, no. S14 (2019): 1–22, at 12n38, 16.


Jan de Vries, “Playing with Scales: The Global and the Micro, the Macro and the Nano,” in “Global History and Microhistory,” ed. John-Paul A. Ghobrial, supplement, Past & Present 242, no. S14 (2019): 23–36.


On scale and recent historical methods, see Christian G. De Vito, “History without Scale: The Micro-Spatial Perspective,” in “Global History and Microhistory,” ed. John-Paul A. Ghobrial, supplement, Past & Present 242, no. S14 (2019): 348–72. On music related studies, see, for instance, Ioan Sebastian Jucu, “Urban Identities in Music Geographies: A Continental-Scale Approach,” Territorial Identity and Development 3, no. 2 (2018): 5–29.


Wangpaiboonkit’s article in this forum adds another layer to this discussion on musical scales and geographical totalities.


Here I am building on the work of Sallie Marston. See Sallie A. Marston, “The Social Construction of Scale,” Progress in Human Geography 24 (2000): 219–42.


Richard Howitt, “Scale as Relation: Musical Metaphors of Geographical Scale,” Area 30 (1998): 49–58, at 56.


Marston, “Social Construction of Scale,” 233–38.


See Elena Barabantseva, Aoileann Ní Mhurchú, and V. Spike Peterson, “Introduction: Engaging Geopolitics through the Lens of the Intimate,” Geopolitics 26 (2021): 343–56.


Sallie A. Marston, John Paul Jones III, and Keith Woodward, “Human Geography without Scale,” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 30 (2005): 416–32, at 422–23.


De Vito, “History without Scale,” 348.


De Vito, “History without Scale,” 349.


Bloechl, “Editorial,” 173.


Alison Mountz and Jennifer Hyndman, “Feminist Approaches to the Global Intimate,” Women’s Studies Quarterly 34, nos. 1–2 (2006): 446–63, at 451. On the study of alternative spatialities, see Conrad, What Is Global History?, 120–24.


Mountz and Hyndman, “Feminist Approaches to the Global Intimate,” 450.


Sara Ahmed, Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006), 109.


Ahmed, Queer Phenomenology, 8.


Sara Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion, 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014), 152.


Ahmed, Cultural Politics of Emotion, 149.


John E. Crowley, The Invention of Comfort: Sensibilities and Design in Early Modern Britain and Early America (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001), 72–73.


Ahmed, Cultural Politics of Emotion, 148.


David Ellison and Andrew Leach, “Thinking through Discomfort,” in On Discomfort: Moments in a Modern History of Architectural Culture, ed. David Ellison and Andrew Leach (London: Routledge, 2017), 1–7, at 1.


Ahmed, Cultural Politics of Emotion, 155.


Ellison and Leach, “Thinking through Discomfort,” 2.


Ahmed, Cultural Politics of Emotion, 148.


Mountz and Hyndman, “Feminist Approaches to the Global Intimate,” 447.


Berlant, “Intimacy,” 281.


Berlant, “Intimacy,” 281.


Maldonado, “The Idea of Comfort,” 37, emphasis added.


Michael Herzfeld, Cultural Intimacy: Social Poetics and the Real Life of States, Societies, and Institutions, 3rd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2016), 12.


Herzfeld, Cultural Intimacy, 2, emphasis added.


Berlant, “Intimacy,” 283, emphasis added.


Nancy Fraser, “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy,” Social Text, nos. 25–26 (1990): 56–80.


See Geraldine Pratt and Victoria Rosner, “Introduction: The Global & the Intimate,” Women’s Studies Quarterly 34, nos. 1–2 (2006): 13–24.


Claudia Fonseca Alfaro, “Feminist Lefebvre? Understanding Urbanization through the Global Intimate,” ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 20 (2021): 366–86, at 371.


Kimberly A. Chang and L. H. M. Ling, “Globalization and Its Intimate Other: Filipina Domestic Workers in Hong Kong,” in Gender and Global Restructuring: Sightings, Sites and Resistances, ed. Marianne H. Marchand and Anne Sisson Runyan (London: Routledge, 2000), 27–43, at 34, quoted in Mountz and Hyndman, “Feminist Approaches to the Global Intimate,” 455.


See Daniel F. Castro Pantoja, Beatriz Goubert, and Juan Fernando Velásquez Ospina, “Two Anthems and a Joke: Sounding the Colombian Uprising, 2019–2021,” Americas: A Hemispheric Music Journal 30 (2021): 58–93, at 73–82, 84.


This recalls Law’s notion of “sounding right” in this forum.


Here I am paraphrasing Mountz and Hyndman’s notion (“Feminist Approaches to the Global Intimate,” 447) that intimacy is found in the entanglements of the global and the local rooted in everyday life. On recent performances of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” see Shana L. Redmond, “Indivisible: The Nation and Its Anthem in Black Musical Performance,” Black Music Research Journal 35 (2015): 97–118. On the labor of simulated human voices in call centers, see David McCarthy, “Labor, Machines, IVR-Enabled Automated Call Centers, and the Design of an Audible Workplace,” in The Oxford Handbook of Mobile Music Studies, ed. Sumanth Gopinath and Jason Stanyek (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 1:135–68.


Herzfeld, Cultural Intimacy, 8.


See Bloechl, “Editorial.”


For, instance, see Chantal Mouffe’s post-Marxist critique of cross-cultural, cosmopolitan democratic models. Chantal Mouffe, “Which World Order: Cosmopolitan or Multipolar?,” Ethical Perspectives 15 (2008): 453–67, at 461–67.