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Contact Information

409-F Alumni Hall
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3520


Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 1989.

Research Interests

My research field has long been African American expressive culture, with focused investigation of musical, poetic and belief systems in African American communities. I have directed my efforts towards both the academic and public arenas, working towards integrating ethnography, theory, and publicly accessible presentation. Much of my public sector work has been conducted in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution and the Folk Arts Section of the North Carolina Arts Council. For the last four years, I have served as co-director-along with Dwight Rogers in the School of Education-of the “Curriculum, Music, and Community” project, an educational initiative that is re-centering the curricula in 4th-grade public school classrooms around the study of local musical traditions.

Present Research: While working with African American gospel singers, I became intrigued with the performed links between public expression and private experience. This interest has led beyond the sanctified church to a broader investigation of traditions of “collaborative communication,” when mortal speakers and transcendent entities are said to share responsibility for communication. Within the African American church, I am currently exploring the ways that this link has yielded-and continues to yield-a broad body of “dream songs” (or “gift songs”) that are said to come from the Holy Spirit. Additional projects address African American vernacular poetics, the play of ethnographic authority in the public presentation of tradition, and—currently—vernacular artistic responses in North Carolina to 9/11 and the wars that have followed in its aftermath.

Courses Taught

FOLK 77: First-Year Seminar: Poetic Roots of Hip-Hop
FOLK 790: Public Folklore
ANTH/FOLK 860: Art of Ethnography