Dr Darci Sprengel

Junior Research Fellow at St. John's College

PhD and MA (UCLA), BMA and BA (University of Michigan)

Research

Darci Sprengel is an ethnomusicologist and Junior Research Fellow in Music at St John's College. Her research examines the affective politics of DIY music (independent music and mahraganat) in Egypt after the defeated 2011 revolution. Her first book manuscript, 'Postponed Endings': Youth Music and Affective Politics in Post-Revolution Egypt, currently in progress, demonstrates how DIY musicking renders public atmosphere material and tangible and analyzes its effects on notions of desirable political action. She has two additional research projects. The first analyzes music streaming technologies using a feminist and critical race approach to digital media. The second explores the influence of Sub-Saharan African culture in Egyptian popular culture, interrogating the politics of Arab anti-blackness through the lens of critical race theory.

Research Interests

Darci’s research takes an ethnographic approach to broadly investigate the intersections of sound, the body, and power. Her first book, ‘Postponed Endings’: Youth Music and Affective Politics in Post-Revolutionary Egypt, examines how Egyptian “do-it-yourself” (DIY) music circulates affect to transform public atmosphere in ways that hold potential for innovative forms of political action under conditions of military-capitalism. DIY music is made primarily by young musicians who, through home studios and Internet software, produce new musical styles that mix traditional Arab musical aesthetics with genres such as hip-hop, rock, jazz, metal, and EDM. The book focuses on the ideologies and affective practices of two DIY styles, independent music and mahraganat (festival music), that became popular in Egypt around the time of the 2011 Egyptian revolution.

Darci has two additional research projects. The first examines the role of online listening in materializing notions of ‘culture’ and ‘difference’ in algorithmic infrastructures. Comparing the digital music streaming platforms Spotify and Anghami, it asks: If harnessing ‘cultural difference’ gives rival streaming platforms a competitive edge, how might this focus disrupt, perpetuate, and/or transform the racialized logics of the World Music industry? This project combines ethnography with feminist and critical race approaches to digital media to understand how listening practices develop online infrastructures that perpetuate ‘algorithmic oppression’.

The second examines the contemporary politics of race making in urban Egypt. Looking at the music and lives of foreign ‘expatriates’ as well as Sudanese and Nubian musicians in Egypt, it demonstrates how local and global logics of ‘securitization’ intersect to perpetuate white privilege and anti-black sentiments in daily life. In so doing, it links contemporary processes of racialization to colonial histories and to the more recent ‘War on Terror’, and it connects the study of Arab homeland and diaspora, shifting academic discourse away from treating them as two separate fields. Ultimately, this project examines musical practices to interrogate the usefulness and limitations of dominant critical race theory for understanding the lived experiences of social inequality within the Middle East.

Peer-reviewed Publications

In preparation:“Postponed Endings”: Youth Music and Affective Politics in Post-Revolution Egypt. (book manuscript in progress)

In preparation: “Expanding Music Streaming Scholarship Beyond the West: Producing Local Culture, Digital Orientalism, and Dependency through Streaming Platforms in Egypt.”

In preparation: “The Affects of the Inaudible: Listening to Urban Ruination, Gentrification, and the Making of Empire in Contemporary Egypt.”

In preparation: “Trap Music and Autotune: The Changing Political Economy of Working-Class Affect in Contemporary Egyptian Popular Music.”

Forthcoming: “Curating Ṭarab on Music Streaming Platforms: The Algorithmic Biases of Anghami and Spotify.” In Ṭarab: Music, Ecstasy, Emotion, and Performance, edited by Michael Frishkopf, Dwight Reynolds, and Scott Marcus. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Forthcoming: “Unsettling the Dominance of Euro-American Constructions of Race as Challenge for Global Racial Justice: The Case of Independent Music in Contemporary Egypt.” In At the Crossroads: Music and Social Justice, edited by Brenda Romero and Susan Asai. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

2021: “Reframing the ‘Arab Winter’: The Importance of Sleep and a Quiet Atmosphere after ‘Defeated’ Revolutions.” Culture, Theory & Critique. (Online first)

2020: “Street Concerts and Sexual Harassment in Post-Mubarak Egypt: Ṭarab as Affective Politics.” In Playing for Keeps: Improvisation in the Aftermath, edited by Daniel Fischlin and Eric Porter, 160-90. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

2020: “‘Loud’ and ‘Quiet’ Politics: Questioning the Role of ‘the Artist’ in Street Art Projects after the 2011 Egyptian Revolution.” International Journal of Cultural Studies 23 (2): 208-226.

2019: “‘More Powerful than Politics’: Affective Magic in the DIY Music Activism after Egypt’s 2011 Revolution.” Popular Music 38 (1): 54-72.

2018: “Challenging the Narrative of ‘Arab Decline’: Independent Music as Traces of Alexandrian Futurity.” Égypte/Monde Arabe 17: 135-55.

Special Issues Edited 

Forthcoming: Double special issue comprising twelve articles, “Unhearing Sound Studies: Inattention, Not Listening, and Hearing Otherwise at the Limits of Audition,” co-edited with Benjamin Tausig, Ian MacMillan, and Yun Emily Wang.

2020: Roundtable comprising of thirteen essays, “Approaching Creative Expression after the 2011 Egyptian Revolution,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 52 (3): 489-558.

Other Publications/Public Outreach 

In press: “An (Un)Marked Foreigner: Race-Making in Egyptian, Syrian, and German Popular Cultures,” coauthored with Shayna Silverstein. Lateral.

Forthcoming: “Jazz in Egypt.” Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, Volume 13. London: Bloomsbury Academic. (6,000 words)

2020: “Security, Neoliberal Desire, and Experimental Aesthetics: Revolutionary Traces in the Egyptian Independent Music Scene.” Roundtable essay, International Journal of Middle East Studies 52 (3): 545-551.

2020: “Approaching Creative Expression in Egypt Ten Years After.” Roundtable introduction, International Journal of Middle East Studies 52 (3): 489-492.

2020: “Hearing the World Collapse: Turbulent Cascades and Organic Machines in the Compositions of Hassan Khan.” In I Saw the World Collapse and It Was Only a Word, edited by Kathleen Reinhardt. Milan: Mousse.

2017: “The Fear of Happiness and the Pleasure of Belonging in Egypt’s Independent Music.” Muftah. 12 December.

2013: “The International Cairo Jazz Festival and Mini Mobile Concerts: Two Musical Approaches to ‘Post’-Revolutionary Egypt.” Sounding Board (supplement to Ethnomusicology Review). 3,300 words. October 9.

Personal website and access to publications: https://oxford.academia.edu/DarciSprengel