by John Caldwell, Musicology Ph.D. Candidate and Teaching Associate Professor, Hindi-Urdu, Department of Asian Studies
In this timely post from June 2020 on “Decolonizing the Music Room,” Danielle Brown reminds us that it is not going to be enough for us as educators to jump on the bandwagon of BLM without making drastic and courageous changes in our classrooms, departments, institutions, and fields. As she points out, it is extremely difficult for white people to cede authority to black, indigenous, and other people of color, especially when that authority derives from many years of research and experience.
Brown outlines a fundamental dilemma: the Academy is not (yet?) a place where white privilege can be overthrown by force, but most diversity and inclusion initiatives are doomed to be superficial, cosmetic, and top-down. Brown’s critique of ethnomusicology is especially acute: at last year’s SEM there was a lively panel discussion about the future of the field by past Society presidents (none of whom were POC), and the consensus seemed to be that “ethno”-musicology as we know it, is not a sustainable concept in today’s world.
Does this mean we can no longer study the music of the Other? Perhaps, but in any case, Brown’s message of the moment is that white folks just need to be quiet, step back, and let other voices be heard.
Read Danielle Brown’s “Open Letter On Racism In Music Studies” and explore more of the blog posts and resources of Decolonizing the Music Room here.