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Musicology Colloquium: Gavin Steingo, "Kapwani Kiwanga and the Challenge of Black Listening"

Thursday, September 13, 2018 at 4:30pm

Lincoln Hall, 124
Dept of Music, 101 Lincoln Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-4101, USA

Gavin Steingo is an Assistant Professor of Music at Princeton University. He is the author of Kwaito’s Promise: Music and the Aesthetics of Freedom in South Africa (University of Chicago Press, 2016), which was awarded the Alan P. Merriam prize by the Society for Ethnomusicology. With Jairo Moreno, he edits the book series “Critical Conjunctures in Music and Sound” for Oxford University Press.


The paper examines the work of performance artist Kapwani Kiwanga, who mobilizes Afrofuturist ideas towards a speculative metaphysics of the ear. Kiwanga’s work is rich and deeply textured: she engages topics ranging from African historiography, technologies of knowledge transmission, and the position of the human within different cosmological schemas (roughly speaking, Eurocentric and Afrocentric). My inquiry focuses on Kiwanga’s conceptualization of human, non-human, and extraterrestrial life. I examine her performance style and consider the centrality of music to her work—for Kiwanga, music functions as the phantom trace of forgotten associations. I will ultimately argue that Kiwanga’s practice compels a reconsideration of human audition.

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Event Type

Lecture, Music


Department of Music



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