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Centre for Creative Ethnography

Music | Race | Affect

Willemien Froneman's work articulates a sound studies from the South; it is an attempt to write in a South Africa-centered way – amidst the collapse of colonial disciplines and a resulting disciplinary and methodological catholicism – for a broad, international audience interested in the affective and sonic constitution of race and racism.

Theorizing white aesthetics and race formation in South Africa from a position immersed in the sonic, her book, The Groovology of White Affect (Palgrave, Forthcoming) mines the "heart-speech" of boeremusiek – a genre of white folk music in South Africa – across two centuries of reception. The book offers a theory of race formation steeped in the music’s rich vernacular language and practices, and with South Africa's race ideologies always simmering in the background. Her work identifies the "affective modalities" of white aesthetic appreciation through innovative interdisciplinary perspectives combining ethnography with insights from affect theory, linguistic anthropology, historiography, and critical theory. The result is an approach to sound studies that focuses on indexicality, music's "metalanguage of affect", and the pragmatics of musical engagements and one in which music, affect and whiteness are treated as three interlinked commandeering ontologies. Some of her related projects include work on global modernism and the South African avant-garde, as well as on evangelical revival movements in South Africa during the twentieth century.