Brian Wallheimer | January 29, 2019
University of Notre Dame anthropologist Alex Chávez’s first book, "Sounds of Crossing: Music, Migration, and the Aural Poetics of Huapango Arribeño," has certainly caught the eye of his peers.
The in-depth look at Mexican migrants’ cultural expression through music has earned three prestigious awards in the fields of anthropology and ethnomusicology.
Chávez’s work has earned the 2018 Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology Book Prize and 2018 Association for Latina and Latino Anthropologists Book Award, and now the Alan P. Merriam Prize from the Society for Ethnomusicology. The latter is rarely awarded to a junior scholar, making it a pleasant surprise for Chávez, an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology.
“That this type of scholarship is being recognized in a wide range of fields says something about the importance of academic work — in this case, anthropological work — focused on Latinos in the United States and, moreover, that it is being undertaken by Latino scholars,” he said. “That’s a bit of a watershed moment, especially with the Alan P. Merriam Prize. It’s a unique experience for me, given that it is my first book. To have it received in this way is both humbling and exciting.”
While today’s headlines and political climate can cast Mexican migrants as people perpetually outside of American society, Chávez’s book traced the flows of a style of music — huapango arribeño — to show how Mexicans on either side of the border assign meaning to their migration and enact forms of belonging within this context.
“Within contemporary politics and discourse about migrants, we see and witness the construction of narratives concerning Mexican migrant illegality that attempt to render this community policable, racialized subjects,” he said. “Migrants are clearly aware of this. It’s the kind of language they experience in their daily lives.
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