Music and the Humanitarian Imagination

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  Friday, November 19, 2021
  12 - 1:30 p.m.
  Online via Zoom

What does music do within humanitarian encounters? Why do humanitarian institutions increasingly promote musical activities, when the wider sector is largely preoccupied with notions of security and biological survival? This talk examines the role of music for (Western) humanitarian imaginaries and the institutional norms that they reinforce. Drawing from fieldwork in Jordan, it explores further how local musicians and administrators negotiate, make use of, and directly challenge norms central to humanitarian governance. Ultimately, this project considers the relations between music and the human, calling attention to the stakes and ramifications of musical ontologies for broader “humanitarian” efforts in the eastern Mediterranean.

Melissa J. Scott is a Ph.D. candidate in ethnomusicology at the University of California, Berkeley. Her dissertation, titled “The Aurality of Displacement,” investigates how histories of forced migration inform contemporary music-making and listening practices in Jordan. This research has been supported by a Fulbright-Hays DDRA, an ACOR-CAORC predoctoral fellowship, and the Sultan Fund, where she
studies Algerian Andalusian musical practices as an oudist and vocalist.

Center for Middle Eastern Studies
University of California, Berkeley
340 Stephens Hall, Berkeley, CA  94720-2314



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