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Joshua Tucker

Assistant Professor of Music:
Phone: +1 401 863 3644

My research focuses on sound and society in Latin America, with a particular emphasis on popular music in both the Andean region and Brazil. I have studied the relation between highland musicians, media workers, and listeners in Peru, to determine how popular cultural forms shape race and class identities. One of my current projects deals with the international circulation of indigenous Andean music and imagery, and the other with choro music and related practices during Brazil's Belle Epoque.


My research centers on popular musicians, fans, and the people who shape the ties that bind them, including media workers, concert promoters, and scholars. I am particularly interested in the way that musicians and mediators use available channels of dissemination to gather consumers, and hence in the way that local media topographies shape listening publics. The idiosyncratic organization of media systems, and the saturation of human spaces by music, together have created sonic environments that are both dense and heterogeneous. Within them, key distinctions of class, race, gender, or age set are "called out" when sounds and musical styles are targeted to particular markets. Everyday actors increasingly come to experience, parse, and signal social affiliations through musical activity, which affectively binds listeners to abstract identitarian categories in ways not easily achieved via other communicative channels. Especially in times of demographic or technological change, when existing social boundaries dissolve before new kinds of organization, mass-mediated music often becomes disproportionately central in crystallizing such emergent connections. Cheap to produce, circulate, and consume, circulating under a logic that demands quick adjustment to changes in taste communities, it reveals and creates human networks that escape the attention of observers whose horizons are defined by more cumbersome communicative forms.

I have treated such issues in my previous work on Peruvian huayno music, a folkloric style from the country's Andean highlands. It has long been a central symbol of identity for mestizo citizens in the country's provincial regions. However, Peru's demographic weight shifted from the rural highlands to the coastal capital after midcentury, and huayno music was increasingly industrialized in Lima. Its musical parameters and its context of performance changed, in response to the emergence of an unprecedented Andean middle class. My research focused on the ideologies that surround huayno music from the Andean city of Ayacucho, showing how local intellectuals of the early twentieth century made their city's style into the dominant sonic emblem of elite mestizo society. These associations were repurposed toward the end of the twentieth century, when a rising middle class of humbler origin in Lima came to treat the genre as a site of conspicuous, cosmopolitan consumption congruent with its emergent social position. Placing the actions of record labels and radio DJs acted at the center of this shift, I demonstrated that processes of sociomusical change cannot be understood without attending to the everyday actions of those mediators who sit at the nodes of the networks connecting listeners to musicians, connecting sounds to ideologies of self and other.

My current book project focuses on the transnational circulation of Andean indigenous music, and the cultural ideologues who shape the nature and the reception of indigenous artists' work. Touching on topics ranging from Andean New Age and heavy metal music in Peru and Europe, to cultural revivalist efforts targeting the indigenous countryside, to images of indigenous musical performance in contemporary and classic film, it aims to explore the ways that Peruvian artists and intellectuals are rethinking the very nature of indigeneity, in response to both the rising power of an internationalized indigenous politics, as well as the longstanding global market in images of indigenous culture.

I am also currently beginning a project that examines the relation between musical genre and cultural change, centered on Brazilian choro music, which coalesced among the middle and lower classes of Rio de Janeiro during the city's late-19th century "Belle Epoque." I am particularly interested in the way that a series of informal and loosely-coordinated musical practices came to be perceived and consumed as a new genre, in a time when scholars and organic intellectuals increasingly debated the nature of the Brazilian nation and the proper constitution of its citizenry. I also mean to interrogate the way that the subsequent narrativization of choro's essential brasilidade, reiterated and reinforced across several waves of musical revival, has marginalized other aspects of the musical and cultural milieu within which its founding artists moved, and which may provide alternate avenues for conceptualizing both choro music and fin-de-siècle Rio de Janeiro.


2013-14 Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research Post-Ph.D Research Grant
2009-10 Harvard University: Santo Domingo Visiting Fellow, David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies
2005-6 The University of Chicago: Postdoctoral Fellow in Ethnomusicology, Music Department


American Anthropological Association
American Ethnological Society
Brazilian Studies Association
Instituto de Etnomusicología, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú
International Association for the Study of Popular Music
Latin American Studies Association
Society for Ethnomusicology
Society for Latin American Anthropology
Special Interest Group on Indigenous Music, Society for Ethnomusicology
Special Interest Group on Latin America and the Caribbean, Society for Ethnomusicology


I teach a variety of courses on regional, theoretical, or methodological concerns in the field of ethnomusicology. Regional courses typically focus on music and social development in Latin America and particular countries or regions of the subcontinent, while theoretical courses touch upon issues of nation and nationalism, globalization, race and ethnicity, and media ethnography. Courses taught at Brown include:

Music Beyond Borders
Popular Music and Society in Latin America
Introduction to Ethnomusicology
Music, Nation, and Nationalism
Music of Brazil
Music, Mediation, Circulation
Honky Tonk Heroes
Brazilian Choro Ensemble

Funded Research

2013-14 Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research Post-Ph.D Research Grant
2012 Richard B. Salomon Faculty Research Award (Brown University)
2002-4 Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada Doctoral Award.
2002-3 Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research Dissertation Fieldwork Grant.

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Curriculum Vitae

Download Joshua Tucker's Curriculum Vitae in PDF Format