Liz Matsushita: Encounters at Africa's Border
Date & Location
About the Event
In the early 20th century, European travelers to Tangier often designated the North African port city as the place “where Europe ends and Africa begins.” Accordingly, their accounts were filled with descriptions of the intense sights, smells, and, above all, sounds that greeted their border-crossing arrival: from yelling crowds, to haunting cafe songs, to the clacking castanets of “Gnawi” street performers. I ask: how did Tangier become a metonym for Morocco and "Africa,” while in other ways being regarded as an extraordinary and liminal zone? How did sound and music serve to formulate these impressions most strongly? This lecture will analyze the soundscapes of early to mid-20th-century Tangier, and specifically how race, colonialism, and resistance were narratively mapped in the city. Using observers’ accounts of Tangier’s political, physical, and racial landscape, as well as formal and informal attempts at musical ethnography, it will consider how the city was constructed as both civilizational crossroads and transgressive racialized space via descriptions of its sound and music. This sounded urban history will then be situated in the history of colonial Morocco and the concurrent French and Spanish musicological projects, in which colonial officials sought to record, document, preserve, and reify Morocco’s musical cultures, and with them their understandings of Moroccan race, culture, and society.
Liz Matsushita is a PhD Candidate in History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, specializing in Middle Eastern and North African history, colonialism and post-colonialism, race and ethnicity, and music. Her research performs a critical history of musicology in the early to mid-20th century, focusing on French musical projects in North Africa and based on archival research in both traditional and sonic archives in Morocco, Tunisia, France, Egypt, and Lebanon. Her work has been supported by Fulbright, FLAS, AIMS, and the Illinois Graduate College, and she will defend her dissertation, “Disharmony of Empire: Race and the Making of Modern Musicology in Colonial North Africa,” in spring 2021. She is currently a Fellow at the Humanities Research Institute in Illinois.