I am currently working on three research and writing projects.
First, my archival, oral history and ethnographically oriented historical research in the coalfields of West Virginia and southwestern Virginia focuses on the relationship of popular culture to the coming of industrial capitalism to Appalachia. I analyze the ways in which blues music played and sung by both white and black musicians in the 1920s and early 1930s registered the transformations of mountain social and economic landscapes brought about by coalmining, as well as the discursive struggles and violent labor struggles that followed. The book I am writing entitled Logan County Blues: Frank Hutchison in the Sonic Landscape of the Appalachian Coalfields (and its coordinate documentary CD project) will provide a comprehensive account of blues in the coalfields, and an historical ethnography of coal camps in Logan County West Virginia in which blues and other genres of music were significant aspects of community life and violent conflict between miners and coal operators. (The photograph here was taken in Logan County in 2007, as I interviewed the closest surviving relative of Frank Hutchison.)
In this book I narrate the intertwined story of blues and mountain music, coal mining, and labor struggles in the mountains, using the 1920s miner and musician Frank Hutchison as a hook on which to hang a broader narrative about the sonic and social landscapes of southern West Virginia in the 1920s, and the enormous transformations in the economic and cultural life of miners living and working there at that time. I chose Frank Hutchison (1897-1945) as the fulcrum for the book because he was the first white guitarist to record blues, in 1926; he learned them from black railroad workers and fellow coal miners in the early years of the twentieth century and his music preserves some significant pre-blues material that was recorded by no one else, white or black. He has been described by black musicians who knew him and played with him as the only white guitarist who truly played the blues in that time and place. He thus stands as a significant figure in the story of the transformation of mountain music that came in the wake of the railroads and coal mines. I chose to focus on him also because he and members of his family were involved in some of the most important events in the history of union struggles and the coming of industrial capitalism to Appalachia. And so using him as the narrative hook provides me with a way of setting the music and the coal mining issues within the same landscape. Logan County is an intriguing site because it was the scene of some of the most dramatic transformations in mountain music in the early twentieth century, it was a landscape in which issues of whiteness came to the fore in the 1920s, and it was the site of the most violent labor struggles at that time. My book lays out the story of the interrelationships among these three.
Second, I am writing a book of ethnographic history tentatively entitled Scandalous Traductions: Landscape, History, Memory, in which I think about questions like those that follow, as I carry out archival, ethnographic and oral history research in the most Appalachian of Pennsylvania coal mining counties, Fayette County in the far southwestern corner of the state, on the Pennsylvania/West Virginia/Maryland border.
How does a place come into being and how does it come into view? In what ways are eighteenth and nineteenth century footpaths and wagon roads and railroads and coal mines and movements of capital and labor inscribed on the land and how are their layered pasts remembered, forgotten and narrated in the present? How are Marx’s arid characterizations of labor and capital and commodity fleshed out, so to speak, in the materiality of living and moving and remembering and making a home on a terrain hollowed out by coal mines and scarred by industrial violence? How does memory create and recreate itself in such a landscape and how is it lodged in things like postcards mailed in 1910 and kept for decades in a cardboard cookie box; a skillfully carved and lacquered maple newel post in a coal company house otherwise devoid of architectural ornament; a pale lemon patchwork quilt with fine white stitching, sewn by a miner’s daughter for her four-year-old granddaughter, carelessly thrown away but preserved in memory for half a century; a grave marker for a coal miner killed in a slate fall, its inscription barely legible in an abandoned cemetery, the violent death it once recorded long forgotten? What objects and traces of the past are expunged from memory, not preserved, not handed down? And how do these presences and absences synechdochically evoke not only a history of routes traveled across a coalfield landscape with its union organizing and violent strike-breaking, its coal mine disasters and its bleak mining towns, but also roots put down in a particular place, a home made from, say, a featureless company house in a coal patch? How is meaning, and culture, fashioned out of shards of memory and the traces of lives adhering to quotidian objects and landscapes? How do everyday visual images from the past--maps, engravings, photographs, newspaper illustrations and mastheads, advertisements, drawings, blueprints, and postcards--shape public and private understandings of the landscape and its built environments? And how do remembering and forgetting and traducing produce irresolvable rifts in sociality and in family ties, across and within the lines of class and privilege and poverty?
This book is inspired by a varied array of writers and theorists (Bachelard, Benjamin, Sebald, Shelton, Sontag, Trouillot, and Williams, and in particular by Paul Carter's "The Road to Botany Bay"), and by historians like Natalie Zemon Davis, Alain Corbin, Carlo Ginzburg and Amitav Ghosh whose imaginings of the shadowy tracks imprinted on the landscape by all-but unknown men and women have evoked their vanished worlds. The idea for this book also grew out of work on my other nearly completed book project, Logan County Blues: Frank Hutchison in the Sonic Landscape of the Appalachian Coalfields. And I have been no less inspired by my great great great great great grandfather William Goe’s 1794 assault on what he termed the “scandalous traductions“ of history, in a document he deposited in the Fayette County courthouse on June ninth of that year.
And finally, I continue to work on various topics related to my long-term interest in colonial ethnography and the political uses of ethnographic knowledge in nineteenth and early twentieth century India, an interest which grew partly out of my ethnographic research in rural north India on caste, dominance and prestation patterns on the one hand and kinship, gender and the poetics and politics of women's speech and song on the other.
- cultural production in India (caste, gender and oral traditions)
- poetics and politics of speech and song
- colonialism, culture, and colonial knowledge
- colonial ethnography in nineteenth century India
- the politics of representation
- ethnographic history
- music and industrial capitalism in Appalachia
- blues music in the mountain south
- landscape, history, memory
- Ph.D. With Distinction: Anthropology, University of Chicago (advisor, McKim Marriott), 1985.
- A.M.: Anthropology, University of Chicago, 1976.
- B.A.: Anthropology, Chatham College, 1971.
- Scandalous Traductions: Landscape, History, Memory. Book manuscript in preparation.
- Logan County Blues: Frank Hutchison in the Sonic Landscape of the Appalachian Coalfields. Book manuscript in preparation.
- 2010 ““˜A Splendid Thing for the Empire’: Some Reflections on Ethnography and Entextualization in Colonial India.“ In Karen Isaksen Leonard, Gayatri Reddy, and Ann Grodzins Gold, eds. Histories of Intimacy and Situated Ethnography. New Delhi: Manohar Publishers. Pp. 259-304.
- 2003 Songs, Stories, Lives: Gendered Dialogues and Cultural Critique. Edited volume. New Delhi: Kali for Women.
- 2002 “The Erasure of Everyday Life in Colonial Ethnography.“ In Diane Mines and Sarah Lamb, eds. Everyday Life in South Asia. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Pp. 199-213.
- 1999 “The Ajaib-Ghar and the Gun Zam-Zammah: Colonial Cartographies and the Elusive Politics of “˜Tradition’ in the Literature of the Survey of India.“ South Asia Research 19(1):29-51.
- 1999 “The Illusion of Consent: Language, Caste, and Colonial Rule in India.“ In Peter Pels and Oscar Salemink, eds. Colonial Subjects: Essays in the Practical History of Anthropology. pp. 117-152. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
- 1997 “Negotiated Solidarities: Gendered Perspectives on Disruption and Desire in North Indian Expressive Traditions and Popular Culture.“ Oral Tradition 12(1):173-225.
- 1996 “Caste, Colonialism, and the Speech of the Colonized: Entextualization and Disciplinary Control in India.“ American Ethnologist 23(3):494-513.
- 1996 “The Limits of Patriliny: Kinship, Gender, and Women’s Speech Practices in Rural North India.“ In M.J. Maynes et.al. eds., Gender, Kinship, Power: A Comparative and Interdisciplinary History. pp. 149-174. New York and London: Routledge.
- 1995 “'Crying When She's Born and Crying When She Goes Away’: Marriage and the Idiom of the Gift in Pahansu Song Performance.“ In Lindsey Harlan and Paul Courtwright, eds. From the Margins of Hindu Marriage: Essays on Gender, Religion, and Culture. pp. 19-59. New York: Oxford University Press.
- 1994 Listen to the Heron's Words: Reimagining Gender and Kinship in North India. Berkeley: University of California Press. Co-authored by Ann Grodzins Gold.
- 1993 “Caste Ideologies, Protest, and the Power of the Dominant Caste.“ Social Analysis 34:17-33.
- 1989 “Centrality, Mutuality, and Hierarchy: Shifting Aspects of Intercaste Relationships in North India.“ Contributions to Indian Sociology (N.S.) 23:79-101.
- 1988 The Poison in the Gift: Ritual, Prestation, and the Dominant Caste in a North Indian Village. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
- 1988 “India: Caste, Kingship, and Dominance Reconsidered.“ Annual Review of Anthropology 17:497-522.
- Co-producer and author of liner notes: Box set of CDs of music from 1920s and 1930s Appalachian coal mining communities, from commercial and field recordings, in preparation
- Curator and author of liner notes: CD containing new recordings of the music of Frank Hutchison, a 1920s Appalachian coal miner and musician, in preparation
- Invited articles and interviews: The Guitarist, Minnesota Guitar Society, 2003 - 2007
- Instigator and curator: A series of blues-influenced contemporary fingerstyle guitar concerts at the Minnesota History Center, 2001 - 2002
- Manuscript reviewing for many university presses and scholarly journals
- Editorial Board: South Asia Research
- Editorial Board: Domains
- Director: Institute for Global Studies, U of MN , 1998 - 2001
- Chair: Department of Anthropology, U of MN , 1993 - 1998
- University of Minnesota Single Semester Research Leave, Fall 2009
- University of Minnesota Imagine Fund Award, 2009
- University of Minnesota Sabbatical Supplement Award, 2007 - 2008
- University of Minnesota Grant-in-Aid of Research, Artistry and Scholarship, 2005 - 2008
- National Endowment for the Humanities Award for participation in NEH Institute on Appalachian studies, 2006
- Department of Education Title VI Grant for National Resource Center in International Studies, 2000 - 2003
- American Philosophical Society Fellowship, 1996 - 1997
- McKnight Research Award, 1993 - 1996
- McKnight Land Grant Professorship, 1990 - 1993
- Grant-in-Aid, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, 1988
- Marc Perry Galler Prize for Most Distinguished Dissertation in the Division of the Social Sciences, University of Chicago, 1986
- Ph.D. in Anthropology Awarded With Distinction, University of Chicago, 1985
- Dissertation fellowships: Social Science Research Council, American Institute for Indian Studies, Fulbright (declined), 1977 - 1979
- Roy D. Albert Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Anthropology, University of Chicago, 1977
- Phi Beta Kappa, Chatham College, 1971
- Colonialism and Culture
- Culture and Society of India
- Knowledge, Power and the Politics of Representation in Global Studies
- Cultural Anthropology
- America and Its Others
- Roots Music in American Culture and Society