Abstract

Between 2007 and 2015, in a series of trips ranging in length from two to ten months, I conducted ethnographic research with rappers in Dakar, Senegal. Drawing on those experiences, this article explores how primary modes of ethnographic knowing and being are nurtured outside spaces of musical performance and asks how a consideration of gendered moments that are not, per se, research moments—the time spent with families, the eating of meals, the engagement with social norms of greeting and hospitality, but also the often fraught encounters with strangers—might shift our understandings of the nature of the musical field site. Modeling a gendered ethnography of music, I make the following claims: First, models of ethnomusicological fieldwork that center on friendship and participant observation, in their explicit emphasis on collaborative musical performance, implicitly spatialize musical field sites even as they redefine them as experiential. Second, such models prioritize music-centered relationships while obscuring the complexity of power dynamics at play in intercultural research. Finally, both the experiential field site and ethnomusicological research models—and the overlaps and disjunctions between them—actively engender the researcher in ways that necessarily inform fieldwork outcomes.

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