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Michael Figueroa
Assistant Professor Michael Figueroa

by Assistant Professor Michael A. Figueroa

Where does “Intro to World Music” stand in an era of political crisis, globalization, and technological (post)modernity, when relations between self and other are in constant flux? In this article, I critique the colonial underpinnings of “Intro to World Music” while arguing that a recuperated curricular framework can engage students in decolonial praxis via a focus on conversations about self and other. Within such a framework, students can develop a resistance to Eurocentric thinking, and instructors can facilitate encounters with “others” in the context of experiential learning projects. In this way, the teaching strategies I describe may help students move beyond a cultivation of oppositional or analogous thinking about culture (here is how “they” are different from or similar to “us”) to an aspiration toward relational thinking about cultural difference that is other-centered, rather than self-centered.

“The work of decolonization goes far beyond diversifying a syllabus or flipping a classroom. It is not a facile statement of progressive values; it is hard work. Within the constraints of a Western university—with its curricular requirements, heavy investment in Western civilization, institutionalized legacies of slavery and colonialism, recent memories of exclusionary policy and practice, and physical presence on settled indigenous land—this is easier said than done. Decolonization, in other words, is beyond the capability of any individual actor and requires a collective vision that currently eludes academia as a whole. This claim might strike readers as pessimistic or cynical—and many of us have cause to feel that way—but I see coming to terms with this reality as an important first step toward recognizing one’s own agency within the system. Anthropologist Nayantara Sheoran Appleton urges us to recognize our limitations; we may do “anti-colonial, post-colonial, and de-colonial work in the academy,” but we should not “make claims to a ‘decolonized programme,’ ‘decolonized syllabus,’ or a ‘decolonized university.’” According to Appleton, recognizing the entrenchment of colonization in the academy “allows you to be honest about who you/we are and how you/we are situated within certain privileges.” So let’s be honest about the colonial structures inherent to “Intro to World Music.”” -Excerpt from “Decolonizing ‘Intro to World Music?'”

Read the full article here and view the full issue of the Journal of Music History Pedagogy it appears in here.

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