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A Feminist Ethnomusicology

Writings on Music and Gender

Ellen Koskoff

Publication Year: 2014

One of the pioneers of gender studies in music, Ellen Koskoff edited the foundational text Women and Music in Cross Cultural Perspective, and her career evolved in tandem with the emergence and development of the field.In this intellectual memoir, Koskoff describes her journey through the maze of social history and scholarship related to her work examining the intersection of music and gender. Koskoff collects new, revised, and hard-to-find published material from mid-1970s through 2010 to trace the evolution of ethnomusicological thinking about women, gender, and music, offering a perspective of how questions emerged and changed in those years, as well as Koskoff's reassessment of the early years and development of the field. Her goal: a personal map of the different paths to understanding she took over the decades, and how each inspired, informed, and clarified her scholarship. For example, Koskoff shows how a preference for face-to-face interactions with living people served her best in her research, and how her now-classic work within Brooklyn's Hasidic community inflamed her feminist consciousness while leading her into ethnomusicological studies.An uncommon merging of retrospective and rumination, A Feminist Ethnomusicology: Writings on Music and Gender offers a witty and disarmingly frank tour through the formative decades of the field and will be of interest to ethnomusicologists, anthropologists, scholars of the history and development of feminist thought, and those engaged in fieldwork.Includes a foreword by Suzanne Cusick framing Koskoff's career and an extensive bibliography provided by the author.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: New Perspectives on Gender in Music

Title Page, Series Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

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Suzanne Cusick

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pp. ix-xii

With A Feminist Ethnomusicology, Ellen Koskoff has given us an intellectually eclectic, rigorously self-aware, lucidly written, and sometimes hilarious guide to how the paradoxical interdiscipline of feminist ethnomusicology has developed over the past forty years. Koskoff herself describes the book...

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pp. xiii-xiv

While it is certainly an honor to have one’s articles published in a collection such as this, the preparation of this manuscript has also resulted in a curious moment for me. In assembling these articles for publication, I have had to go back over the past forty years of my life, to revel again in excitement and...

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pp. xv-xvi

We all know that it takes a community of colleagues, friends, and family to produce a book, especially one that covers four decades of thinking and writing. Literally, hundreds of people have contributed to this collection, from those feminist scholars I have come to know through their wonderful...

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pp. 1-10

This book resembles what some might call an intellectual memoir, in that it traces my personal journey from the early 1970s to 2012 through a maze of social history and scholarship examining music and gender. Using the word feminist in the title immediately positions me as an inheritor of the...

Part I: 1976–1990

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Chapter 1. From Women to Gender

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pp. 13-30

I begin my academic journey in 1975, the year I wrote the last chapter of my dissertation on Lubavitcher music. Entitled “The Musical Experience of the Female Lubavitcher,” it was, to my knowledge, the first scholarship based on fieldwork that documented the presence of Hasidic women’s music and...

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Chapter 2. Introduction to Women and Music in Cross-cultural Perspective

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pp. 31-43

The introduction to Women and Music in Cross-Cultural Perspective (1987) is probably my best-known work. Certainly, it is the one most cited and quoted by others, and for many readers in the late 1980s and early ’90s it presented the first collection of articles specifically devoted to gender, music, and (mostly)...

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Chapter 3. Both In and Between: Women's Musical Roles in Ritual Life

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pp. 44-56

“Both In and Between” continues with the comparative approach seen in chapter 2, concentrating on women’s musical performances in three very different ritual contexts: the ultra-Orthodox Lubavitcher culture I examined for my dissertation, shamanistic practices in Korea, and the Iroquois Longhouse...

Part II: 1990–2000

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Chapter 4. Shifting Realities

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pp. 59-75

The six chapters in this part mark a change in my thinking and writing, from a predominantly comparative and theoretical approach to more of a focus on culture-specific gendered musical systems. As I grappled with postmodernism’s multivocality and positioning, I began to experience a deep...

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Chapter 5. Gender, Power, and Music

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pp. 76-89

In the late 1980s and into the 1990s, I was still on the hunt for a usable cross-cultural model to help explain what I continued to see as the nearly universal subordination of women’s musical activities. I turned again to Sherry Ortner’s work, elaborating on her theme of female intermediacy and mediation and...

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Chapter 6. Miriam Sings Her Song: The Self and the Other in Anthropological Discourse

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pp. 90-104

This article was my first attempt to deal with the idea of multiple, simultaneous voices. And it also marked a return to my work on Lubavitcher music and gender ideologies, most clearly realized in the law of kol isha (a woman’s voice). Here, I present three different interpretations of the same...

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Chapter 7. The Language of the Heart: Music in Lubavitcher Life

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pp. 105-121

I was asked to write this article for a book examining contemporary Hasidic culture in the United States. This collection, New World Hasidim: Ethnographic Studies of Hasidic Jews in America, edited by Janet S. Belcove-Shalin, appeared in 1995 and contained perhaps the first collection of articles about...

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Chapter 8. When Women Play: The Relationship between Musical Instruments and Gender Style

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pp. 122-132

Having for some time noticed that various accounts of women participating in musical activity did so primarily as singers and dancers, I began to wonder in the mid-1990s why this was the case. Why did so few women play musical instruments, and when they did, why did their activities seem to be so...

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Chapter 9. "Well, That's Why We Won't Take You, Okay?": Women, Representation, and the Myth of the Unitary Self

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pp. 133-142

Having finally had my fill of the generalities of cross-cultural surveys, I jumped to the opposite pole of abstraction here, examining one small portion of a longer conversation with one of my Lubavitcher informants, Miriam Rosenblum, whom you met in chapter 6, “Miriam Sings Her Song.” I hope...

Part II: 2000–2012

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Chapter 10. Unresolved Issues

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pp. 145-156

In the late 1990s, I began to feel a sense of frustration with mainstream ethnomusicology. Wonderful new monographs and anthologies were appearing, as well as countless articles documenting various gendered musical practices cross-culturally. Why, then, had this literature remained largely on the margins of...

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Chapter 11. The Ins and Outs on In and Out

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pp. 157-167

This article marks my first attempt to uncover what I had begun to see as underlying stumbling blocks to answering certain political questions concerning anthropology and ethnomusicology as scholarly disciplines. I continued asking myself, why had mainstream anthropology and ethnomusicology largely...

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Chapter 12. Out in Left Field/Left Out of the Field: Postmodern Scholarship, Feminist/Gender Studies, Musicology, and Ethnomusicology

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pp. 168-179

In this article, I examine the role that intellectual lineage plays in answering the question of why historical and critical musicologists seemed to publish more widely in the area of gender and music than ethnomusicologists, highlighting the major ethical issues in both fields alluded to in previous chapters...

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Chapter 13. Imaginary Conversations

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pp. 180-190

Today, when many young people do not know (or care much) about feminism, or see it as some historical relic, it is sometimes difficult to believe that this wonderfully energetic movement still exists. Perhaps it no longer does, at least under the name feminism. That word, like diversity, and so many others...


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pp. 191-198


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pp. 199-226


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pp. 227-237

About the Author, Series Page, Publisher Notes

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E-ISBN-13: 9780252096402
E-ISBN-10: 0252096401
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252038495

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: New Perspectives on Gender in Music