Bat people : multispecies ethnomusicology in Austin, TX and Chiapas, MX
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In an age characterized by narratives of environmental crisis, understanding the interrelations among humans and other species is crucial. Human-non-human relationships form the basis for how we define concepts such as “humanity” and “modernity,” extending beyond simple survivalist dependencies into our aesthetic practices. Multispecies ethnography is a recent trend in anthropology and science and technology studies that has begun to address the issues of non-humans’ involvement in what are typically considered human cultural practices, but so far this trend has not reached into related disciplines like ethnomusicology. My dissertation project brings multispecies ethnography into ethnomusicology, particularly exploring bat-human interactions in Austin, TX, and Chiapas, MX, and the ways in which they are articulated sonically and aesthetically. Using a mixture of traditional ethnography, “ethnography of science” (following Stefan Helmreich), and internet research, I explore ways in which humans and bats are entangled through technology, art, and science, creating each other through their interrelations. More specifically, I explore how bat migratory processes contribute to the music-based tourist industry in Austin, TX; how scientists, artists, and visually-impaired humans use echolocation to understand bat subjectivities, revising pre-existing notions of sound and the senses in the process; how anthropologists have perpetuated colonialism by incorrectly assigning bats as important symbols to Tsotsil communities in Chiapas, MX; and how Texas-area biologists use terminology associated with singing to reconsider the relationships between bats and humans.