Music Department Colloquium: Jennifer Kyker—Seeking Bad Debt: Ethnography, Mutuality, and Hunhu/Ubuntu

Wednesday, November 16, 2022 at 4:30pm

FREE! Reservation required.

The Zimbabwean indigenous philosophy of hunhu/ubuntu holds our humanity to be produced through emergent interpersonal relations. An ongoing process, hunhu/ubuntu is often described by Shona speakers as “being a person among others.” By transcending and rejecting transactional encounters, Jennifer Kyker suggests that hunhu/ubuntu exemplifies the creation of precisely the type of “bad debt” emphasized by critical theorists Fred Moten and Stefano Harney (2013). Through imagining, seeking out, and ultimately inhabiting bad debt as a space of refuge, Kyker suggests possibilities for ethnographic work centered in the mutuality of hunhu/ubuntu. Beyond the specific lens of hunhu/ubuntu, Kyker positions this approach more broadly as a form of fugitive ethnography with dissonant study, lines of flight, and mutual indebtedness at its core.

Jennifer W. Kyker holds a joint appointment as Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at the Eastman School of Music and as Associate Professor of Music in the College Music Department at the University of Rochester. She is the author of Oliver Mtukudzi: Living Tuku Music in Zimbabwe (Indiana University Press, 2016). She has published articles on topics including listening and reception, music and gender, HIV/AIDS, and Zimbabwean musical bows, which have appeared in journals such as Ethnomusicology, Ethnomusicology Forum, African Music, El Oído Pensante, and the American Journal of Public Health. In addition to her scholarship, Kyker founded Tariro, a non-profit organization that pays school fees and related expenses for orphaned and vulnerable teenaged girls in Zimbabwean communities affected by HIV/AIDS, in 2003. In recognition of her ongoing work with Tariro, she received Mount Holyoke College’s Mary Lyon Award in 2013.

The colloquium is organized by Assistant Professor of Music John Dankwa and Assistant Professor of Music and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies Saida Daukeyeva as part of the Music Department Colloquium Series.