Jocelyne Guilbault

Music

Professor Jocelyne Guilbault specializes in theory and method in popular music studies, politics of aesthetics, and issues dealing with power relations in music production and circulation. Since 1980, she has done extensive fieldwork in the French Creole- and English-speaking islands of the Caribbean on both traditional and popular music. She published several articles on ethnographic writings, aesthetics, the cultural politics of West Indian music industries, and world music. She is the author of Zouk: World Music in the West Indies (1993) and the co-editor of Border Crossings: New Directions in Music Studies (1999-2000). Her last main publication is entitled Governing Sound: the Cultural Politics of Trinidad’s Carnival Musics (2007).

Guilbault’s work as an ethnomusicologist has been deeply informed by the distinct history of the West Indies. Whether in St. Lucia, Dominica, Barbados, Antigua, Trinidad or in the French Departments of Martinique and Guadeloupe where she did fieldwork, the colonial legacies of slavery and of racism have loomed large in all sectors of activities, including music, to this day. Her focus on diasporic formations, emergent national identities, and politics of representation has thus been oriented by the postcolonial condition in which West Indian musicians live and the systemic inequalities such condition has entailed for them. Her research, however, has not only focused on repressive powers and its tragic outcomes. She has devoted much of her research to show that agency is not just about emancipatory politics nor solely about oppression, but also at times about maintaining status quo. In this perspective, she has examined how and through what people involved in the music business have deployed power and to what effects. In her last book, Governing Sound: the Cultural Politics of Trinidad’s Carnival Musics (2007), she explored the ways the calypso music scene became audibly entangled with projects of governing, audience demands, and market incentives. She also showed how through sound, musicians perform at once the inclusion and exclusion of certain bodies, sensibilities, and aesthetics. Guilbault is now working on two new book projects. One focuses on musical connections—or what she refers to as “audible entanglements”—and circulation through the examination of a reputed West Indian musician’s life story. Her second book project focuses on soca to address the poetics and politics of pleasure.