Anna Keneda, originally from Oklahoma, received a B.A. in Political Science from Emory University. After her undergraduate she worked with the Aga Khan Development network teaching and developing English Literature and Music curriculum in Mombasa, Kenya. Anna‘s research interests include the role of music in the study of the global south, modern movements in Southern vernacular music, and the impact of arts organizations in community building strategies. Here she answers five questions about her time so far at UNC.
Why did you decide to come to UNC’s American Studies department for your degree?
When I was an undergraduate at Emory University I had the chance to take a class in the roots of American music from a graduate of the UNC Folklore program, Dr. Allen Tullos. I loved his approach to the study of vernacular music and wanted to be trained in folklore in a similarly people based program. Coming from a political science and non-profit background, I also wanted to be in a place that also makes sure there is a public access component to the curriculum. I have certainly found that at UNC in both course work and just access to rich public folklore community with in North Carolina.
What has been your favorite class to TA for?
As someone who is focused primarily on musical traditions it has been wonderful to TA for Bill Ferris’s Southern Music course this term. TA-ing the course has allowed me to think deeper about the ways that folklorist have historically approached traditional music. Because the class’s focus is so large I have had the opportunity to help students think through projects that span the width and breath of southern music, and it has helped me figure out how to better shape projects of my own. Additionally I appreciate the tangible skills of video recording, networking, and creating and delivering lectures that I have gained over the semester.
Give us the elevator pitch for your dissertation/thesis topic.
Music can be utterly entwined with how we understand place. Landscapes can create distinct musical sounds and music can shape how we see and interpret the land around us. My thesis is looking at the alternative country music coming out of North Eastern Oklahoma, often called Red Dirt music, to see how this place based style of music came to be and how well it represents the political and social values of the little bit of red dirt it calls home.
Most gratifying yet unexpected perk of coming to UNC or Chapel Hill?
I knew there would be music in and around Chapel Hill, but I didn’t know how vibrant the music scene actually was. At any moment there are about three different shows I would love to be at, spanning all sorts of genres and styles. This leads to some tough choices, (i.e. choosing between John Moreland, John Prine, Tribute to Captain Luke, and Anna and Elizabeth shows just last week) but I love being in the middle of such an embarrassment of riches.
Define American Studies or Folkore in one sentence.
To steal directly from Martha Sims and Martine Stephens, “Folklore is a way of understanding people and the wide range of creative ways we express who we are and what we value and believe.”