Denise Nuttall

Denise Nuttall

Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology
Faculty, School of Humanities and Sciences
Faculty, Women's and Gender Studies

Specialty:Cultural Anthropology, South Asia, Ethnomusicology/The Anthropology of Music, The Anthropology of the Body, Embodiment and the Senses, Music as Performance Ethnography
Phone:(607) 274-1682
Office:G124 Gannett Center
Ithaca, NY 14850

I am a Cultural Anthropologist with specialities in South Asia and the South Asian Diaspora, postcolonial, and feminist theories, the anthropology of music, the anthropology of the body (issues of embodiment and the learning and teaching of musical lives), the practice of apprenticeship as a method in the social sciences and biography as ethnography. My research interests include the performing arts of India and more specifically the lived experience of tabla (North Indian percussion) players around the globe. As both a scholar and a practitioner of tabla drumming I am interested in the relationship between the performing arts (music and dance) and their cultural contexts. I received a B.A. from York University, an M.A. from the University of Western Ontario, and the Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia.

I have taught previously in the Departments of Anthropology, Dalhousie University and Fine Arts Cultural Studies at York University working with both undergraduate and graduate students. As a recent addition (2007) to the faculty in the Anthropology Department I am honored to be teaching courses such as Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, Asian Ethnology/World Ethnography, Ethnographic Field Methods and the Anthropology of Music. Upcoming courses in development for the Spring semester 2010 include music labs which engage students experientially in learning South Asian rhythm/percussion. Like others at Ithaca College and in the Anthropology Department I encourage students to “learn by doing”. This past summer I took students on an Anthropological Field course to Mumbai, India to learn first-hand about Indian cultures and to carry out service work with a dynamic NGO, Able Disabled All People Together (ADAPT).  I am passionate about teaching India studies, anthropology and music! I feel that my research and my teaching inform each other in crucial ways.

My dissertation research focused on the relation between gurus and disciples in the practice and performance of tabla drumming and included field sites in New Delhi and Mumbai, India, Toronto and Vancouver, Canada, Bremen, Germany, Seattle, Washington, The Bay Area of California. My current research  “A biography of Tabla: Following the Masters” has taken me back to Mumbai and New Delhi, India for the past six years during monsoon (June to August) where I collect oral histories from learned and celebrated Hindustani (classical North Indian) musicians. I continue to practice and perform tabla returning to India every year which has now become my second home.

 Recent Conference Papers Include:

2007 “Gendering Tabla: Reflections on Apprenticeship and Oral History as Methods in the Creation of Feminist Historiography. Indian Association of Women’s Studies Western Regional Conference” The University of Mumbai, India.

 2006 “Interculturalism and Performance: The Travelling Traditions of Tabla in the Global Village” Department of Sociology Seminar Series. National University of Singapore,

 2006 “How the Body Remembers: Embodiment, Culture and Performative Space”. Panel on Culture and Spatial Design. Canadian Anthropological Association Annual Conference. Concordia University. Montreal.

 Recent Publications Include:

2007 “A Pathway to Knowledge: Embodiment, Experience and Dreaming as a Basis for Understanding the Other” In Extraordinary Anthropology: Transformations in the Field. Jean-Guy Goulet and Bruce G. Miller Editors. Preface by Johannes Fabian. Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press.


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