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Welcome to Volume 22, issue 2 of Ethnomusicology Review! We open with a timely invited essay by Rachel Mundy, which examines the presence of a musical zoopolitics in the popular considerations of mortality precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mundy takes aim at the fact that represented in such mortality calculations is the statistical probablility of one’s survival, a quantification of factors directly linked to age, race, gender, place, and nationality that imbue each with an implicit degree of disposability. Bringing together inquiries into biopolitics and animal studies, Mundy reminds us that the category of humanity itself has always been constituted through an analogous evaluation of relative difference, in this case against the “animal.” By raising the prospect of the “animanities”—a contradiction by any anthropocentric measure—Mundy shows that taking seriously musical practices beyond the human can be a productive inroad into deconstructing normative notions of “life,” along with its capacity for expendability baked right into what we understand to be moral behavior.

Next, we feature two peer reviewed articles, both of which, in an earlier conference paper form, were recognized with the best graduate student paper prize from each author’s local chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology in 2018 (Nelson: T. Temple Tuttle Paper Prize, SEM Niagara Chapter; Hsu: Vida Chenoweth Prize, SEM Southern Plains Chapter). “Butterfly in Bombay,” the article by Trevor R. Nelson, focuses on opera in India during the British Raj. By examining opera, a musical practice often neglected in the context of colonial India, the article explores the relations between the cultural life of the metropole and identity formation amongst British settlers. Building on archival material, Nelson reconstructs the operatic life of Bombay from 1860 to the 1930s and further questions its roles and implications on the British imperial imagination. 

In “Sounding Paiwan,” Chia-Hao Hsu unpacks the politics of institutionalization and aestheticization surrounding the nose and mouth flutes (lalingedan and pakulalu, respectively) belonging to the Paiwan indigenous group of Taiwan. Examining the consequences of this endangered tradition’s academic documentation and representation, Hsu argues that such research was far from neutral; rather, it places Paiwanese actors “in a feedback loop with academic publications and popular discourse, which in turn affect the way Indigenous musicians conceptualize their music” (139–140). The result, he shows, is the aesthetic coding of the instruments with the affective state of weeping, what he calls “thoughtful sorrow.”

Translated from French, Matthieu Saladin’s contribution explores artist Max Neuhaus’ drawing practices to represent and reason with sound throughout his various installations. Detailing the different types of drawing practices used by Neuhaus to accomplish different purposes, Saladin examines how drawing has been a privileged medium for the artist to think about sound in space, to articulate the visual with the sonic, but also to question the audience’s experience within the space of his sound installations. Saladin then shows how drawing was a way for Neuhaus to reflect on his art as well as was a tool to further explore creation.  

Concluding the issue on an opening, the final contribution is the introduction from the book Neva Again: Hip Hop Art, Activism and Education in Post-Apartheid South Africa edited by Adam Haupt, Quentin Williams, H. Samy Alim, and Emile Jansen (2019). Beyond presenting the book as a whole, the introduction problematizes the political dimension of Hip Hop expression in South Africa, and further, addresses the key notions and approaches used to contextualize hip hop culture in relation to the political history of South Africa and its socio-cultural dynamics. By re-publishing the introduction of Neva Again, we hope to contribute to the circulation of this important work on South African hip hop culture and history. Special thanks to H. Samy Alim for making it possible.

We are proud that we are able to offer not only a second issue in a single calendar year (the first in the history of this journal), but further that our current collection of essays speaks directly to ethnomusicology’s current moment of reckoning with its disciplinary history. The pieces included in this volume each challenge unique dimensions of ethnomusicology’s epistemological and methodological status quo. From an examination of music’s potential to aid in both the reproduction and deconstruction of anthropocentricity, to a historical reading of the imperial archive, to a cautionary tale of preservationist research’s transformative impact on its object, to a study of the use of visual techniques to conceptualize the sonic, to an argument for South African Hip Hop’s generative potential—each essay, in its own way, gestures towards alternative manners of conducting music studies in which urgent questions regarding who, what, and how have not been decided in advance. We hope you find our offerings as inspiring and thought-provoking as we do, and further welcome you to participate in these discussions through our online format, which makes it possible to provide public comments on individual articles.