COOL CLASSES: “Musical Cultures of Afro-Latin America”

By exploring the historical and musical development of social groups from the African diaspora, students better understand the relationship between music and marginality.

Class name: “Musical Cultures of Afro-Latin America”

Taught by: Assistant Professor of Music Edwin Porras

Says Porras about his class:
This course considers Afro-Latin American music within a broad cultural framework. We look at the historical and musical development of various social groups that constitute the African diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean. We are reading ethnomusicological literature influenced by the works of Paul Gilroy (The Black Atlantic) and Judith Butler (Gender Trouble) to understand the impact of diasporic forms of music on the creation of Black cultural identity in Latin America at the intersection of race, gender, and class. It is my hope that engaging in such discussions is helpful to students broadly interested in understanding the relationship between music and marginality.

Porras on why he wanted to teach this class:
I wanted to teach this class because little is known about the contributions of the African diaspora in the region. I am interested in the idea of diasporic music as a connecting line in a broad project of decolonization, which not only engages in a broader historical conversation around African diasporic mobility, cultural experience, and exchange but also de-centers the traditional study of music. I look forward to engaging students in discussions about music that also draw from personal experience or cultural proximity.

Porras on what makes this class unique to his department:
There are several ways in which this course broadens the approach to the study of music in our department. It explores popular, ritual, and folkloric forms of expression to complement the departmental focus on the Western European tradition. It also investigates the role of Afro-diasporic music in the construction of a Black identity and culture unique to Latin America and the Caribbean. It gives visibility to the cultural contributions of the African diaspora and the challenges and issues they face. In this context, the course shifts the focus from the study of music as an object to the study of people making music and the meaning of music in their lives.

Learn more about other courses offered by the Department of Music.