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Sarahtalk: Beyond The 'Subaltern'

Brown Bag: Beyond The 'Subaltern': Sounding Sexual Revolt and the Discourse of Oppression Among Muslim Women


Presented by Obianuju Njoku, Ph.D. (Music and Gender Studies

This presentation explores how the compendium of music performance, sexual innuendos, comical euphemisms, and other performative mechanisms are invoked in the music-making praxis of Muslim women. I excavate this discourse through the performance of senwele music— a women’s music form in Ilorin, which is commonly fraught with contestation against a background of its sexually suggestive text. Based on fieldwork with a major exponent of senwele, Alhaja Iya Aladuke, this presentation explores the practice, ambivalences and convivialities of senwele music performance within its predominantly Islamic context. Despite the contestations that attend the performance of senwele music, this presentation examines how the sustained practice of senwele music presents a continuum for negotiating socio-religious binaries, gender boundaries, and the multiplicity of the socio-musical experiences of Muslim women.


Obianuju Akunna Njoku is an Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology and Gender Studies jointly affiliated with the Department of Music and the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies. She recently completed her PhD in Music (Ethnomusicology) from Rhodes University. Njoku’s research draws on multi-disciplinary frameworks to examine music and marginality, and the intersection of music, resistance, gender politics and cross-cultural encounters. Her PhD dissertation, ‘Traversing Sonic Spaces: Expressions of Identity, Gender and Power in the Musical Traditions of the Nupe in Northern Nigeria,” examines the prevalent majority-minority binary in Nigeria and how ethnic identity, gender and power are articulated and contested among the Nupe, a minority group, through musical and extra-musical mappings.

Before joining the University of Mississippi, Njoku was a Mellon Postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Music and Musicology/ International Library of African Music (ILAM), Rhodes University. Dr Njoku was recently awarded the African Humanities Program (AHP) Fellowship of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS).

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