Songwriting as Ethnographic and Linguistic Practice: Case Studies from Sardinia, Italy


Start Date: Feb 05, 2021 - 10:00am

Location: Presented via Zoom

Dr. Kristina M. Jacobsen presented her talk entitled Songwriting as Ethnographic and Linguistic Practice: Case Studies from Sardinia, Italy on Friday, February 5 at 10 am as part of the Spring 2021 Anthropology Colloquia Speaker Series.  (Photo credit: Marco Lutzu)

In this talk, Dr. Jacobsen will present her research in Sardinia, Italy, as a US-Italy Fulbright Scholar (2019-2020), discussing her ethnographic fieldwork learning the Sardinian language, writing songs with interlocutors in the field, and the research method she calls “ethnographic songwriting” for her new book project, Sing Me Back Home: Ethnographic Songwriting and Sardinian Language Reclamation in Italy.  Focusing on the recording of a bluegrass song she cowrote in the Sardinian language that foregrounds rurality, place and nostalgia for a Sardinian past, she examines themes of Sardinian language stigma, cultural intimacy and ordeals of language as they emerged in the process of writing, recording and performing this song. Building on recent research in ethnographic poetry and in arts-based research methodologies in anthropology, she interrogates the pleasurable complications of co-creating the object of study—a song—as a form of participant-collaboration or participant-creation, reflecting on the implications for creative collaborative research in anthropology more broadly.

Kristina Jacobsen is an ethnographer, singer-songwriter and cultural anthropologist. An Associate professor of Ethnomusicology with a secondary appointment in Anthropology (Ethnology) at the University of New Mexico, her research focuses on language reclamation, expressive culture, popular music, and arts-based research methodologies. Her first book, The Sound of Navajo Country: Music, Language and Diné Belonging  (UNC Press, 2017), is based on 2 ½ years of singing and playing lapsteel guitar with Navajo (Diné) country western bands on the Navajo Nation and was the winner of the 2018 IASPM-US Woody Guthrie Award for most outstanding book on popular music. Jacobsen is a touring singer-songwriter, fronts the all-female honky-tonk band Merlettes, and is the founder and co-facilitator of the UNM Honky-Tonk Ensemble. Supported by the US-Italy Fulbright Commission and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, she recently completed one year of ethnographic fieldwork on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia for the project, “Sing Me Back Home: Ethnographic Songwriting and Sardinian Language Reclamation in Italy.” While in Sardinia, she also recorded an album (her fourth) of original songs collaboratively written with Sardinian songwriters and language activists, House on Swallow Street with the Sardinian Label,Talk About Records (release date 2/15/21). She also founded and facilitates two culturally immersive songwriting intensives on the Navajo Nation and, beginning in 2021, in Sardinia. At UNM, Jacobsen teaches the crosslisted Music and Anthropology classes “Navajo Expressive Culture,” “Country Music and Cultural Politics,” and “Anthropology of Music and Sound.”

Hosted by the Department of Anthropology, the Alfonso Ortiz Center for Intercultural Studies, and the Latin American and Iberian Institute (LAII) the Department Colloquia Speaker Series will be held virtually via Zoom on Fridays at 10 am, and will be made available on our You Tube account following the event.  Upcoming speakers include (more details forthcoming): 

February 12        Kathryn Olszowy (New Mexico State)

February 19        Megan Cole (UNM)

February 26        Amy Thompson (The Field Museum of Natural History)

March 5                Luisa Maffi (Terralingua)

March 12             Pilar File-Muriel (UNM) and Chelsey Dyer (Vanderbilt University)

March 26             Jada Benn Torres (Vanderbilt University)

April 2                   Jonathan Dombrosky (UNM)

April 9                   Osbjorn Pearson (UNM)

April 16                Katherine Starkweather (University of Illinois, Chicago)

April 23                Nicholas Emlen (University of Tübingen)

April 30                 Suzanne Gaskins (Northeastern Illinois)

May 7                    Zwedi Tsegai (Max Planck Institute)