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No matter one’s culture, race, religion, class, caste, ethnicity, gender, or any other category, coming together around embodied practices in music and art have a way of penetrating through human-made boundaries and drawing us together in a shared human experience.

My post-doctoral research explores how humans cross cultural borders through an embodied practice of art, music, trade, craft, or ritual within a foreign culture. For the past fifteen years, I have documented my progress of learning Manding West African jali music by studying balafon and becoming a patron to these musical masters.  By paying attention to what blocks and facilitates progress in learning a foreign art, one becomes more intimate with one’s own culturally inculcated patterns of thinking and acting, and the difficulties and pleasures in deconstructing them and reconstructing new ones in order to succeed. This research asks What makes the cultural being and how can we re-make ourselves, consciously, in order to fit new (multi-) cultural realities? What kind of wisdom is gained from learning a culture through an embodied practice of art?


Recent and previous research includes:

Jalis in New York and Paris Transformation and Continuity: Manding Jaliya in the Diaspora


New York, Paris 2004-ongoing

  • “Islam in France and the USA” six-part blog series posted on Centre for Imaginative Ethnography Posted Jan. 4-Feb. 8, 2017.


West Africa  Embodying the Art of Jaliya in the Gambia, Senegal, and Guinea

Fieldwork in 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006. Becoming a music student in situ catered to learning Manding culture through rhythms, feelings, and other sensorial experiences. My doctoral and post-doctoral fieldwork built on this experience, contributing to an anthropology of the senses linked to values in Manding culture and wisdom at large.


  • Learning Kora with Jali Saikou Jobarteh: 2001, 2006. (see video)

  • Learning Balanta Balafon with Kebba Manne: 2001. (see video)

  • Learning Manding Balafon with Abou Sylla from New York to Guinea. 2004. The Balafon Workshops, incorporated into my doctoral dissertation (2007).  


Brazil 1999-2003

My master’s fieldwork explored diverse notions of environmentalism in protected indigenous areas. My pre-doctoral research shifted to Brazilian racial identity through music. In both cases, I laid the foundations for cultural integration through an embodied and reflective practice.


            with Dr. Rodolfo Salm, Universidade de Pará.

  • “Bringing the Coconut to Kayapo Villages of the Amazon: Evaluation of a Sustainable Development Project” with Rodolfo Salm, Palm Vol. 59 (3). 2015.

  • “Conservation Value of an Exotic Species: The Case of Coconuts the Kayapo Indigenous Lands, Southeastern Amazonia.” with Rodolfo Salm, Environment Development and Sustainability Vol. 11 (1). 2009.

Read my CV here

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