Jessica Bissett Perea

2015 Hellman Fellow

Assistant Professor, Native American Studies
UC Davis

Project Title: Last Frontier Audiorealism: Music, Media and the Politics of Indigenous Modernity in Alaska, 1959 – Present

Professor Bissett Perea’s book project explores problems of colonial and racial difference in post-statehood Alaska as amplified by Indigenous musicians who employ a range of musical styles and traditions, from Christian hymnody to hip-hop. This project aims to complicate the idea of “authentic” Indigenous music – a construction that is often oversimplified and/or romanticized in both scholarly and popular imagination – by tracing diverse histories of inter- and intra-tribal cultural encounters to better understand who Alaska Native musicians are, the lives they lead, and the meaning of the music they make. More broadly, it offers an in-depth study of other, specifically colonial, dimensions of racialization in American musical life in order to critique the black-and-white racial paradigm that dominates American music historiography. She argues that listening critically to Alaska Native musical life not only offers new perspectives for understanding the dynamics of agency and self-determination underlying cultural change, it also draws attention to sound as integral to decolonization and social justice.

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