Calendar of Events

Musicology Lecture: National Anthems: Signifiers of Dominance and Oppression

  1. Friday February 5 5:00pm  –  6:30pm

On Jan 6, 2021, insurrectionists sang the Star Spangled Banner and waved the confederate flag while violently invading The Capitol. Contrast this with moments in 2016, when African American NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick  knelt quietly and peacefully during the Star-Spangled Banner. These gestures, both related to the National anthem, varied widely in action, perception, and meaning. These differences, rooted in the racial and racist history of the United States, draw attention to the very notion of a national anthem. Long before Kaepernick, Black folks in the United States have been questioning this song that was written by a slave-holding anti-abolitionist. These same questions should apply in African countries as well. How have national anthems been used to reinforce or dilute national pride in African countries.  Often these songs are sonic reflections of the colonized past, a great irony given the troubled relationships between these countries and their colonial “masters.” This presentation explores the complex relationship between official national anthems and black folks, and considers alternative songs that Africans and African Americans have embraced as a way of authoring their own sense of national identity and challenging enduring systems of oppression.
Speaker Bio:
Stephanie Shonekan is Associate Dean of the College of Arts & Science and Professor of Music at the University of Missouri. In 2003, she earned a PhD in Ethnomusicology and Folklore with a minor in African American Studies from Indiana University. From 2003-2011, she taught at Columbia College Chicago, and from 2011-2018, she was a faculty member at the University of Missouri in the Black Studies Department and the School of Music. From 2015-2018, she was chair of the Department of Black Studies at the University of Missouri.  From 2018-2020, she was professor and chair of the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Shonekan's dual heritage combining West Africa with the West Indies allows her to straddle the black world comfortably.  She has published articles on afrobeat, Fela Kuti, as well as American and Nigerian hip-hop, and American country music.  Her publications explore the nexus where identity, history, culture and music meet. Her books include  The Life of Camilla Williams, African American Classical Singer and Opera Diva (2011), Soul, Country, and the USA: Race and Identity in American Music Culture (2015), Black Lives Matter & Music (2018), and Black Resistance in the Americas (2018).

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