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.

Recent Publications

In preparation. ‘Postponed Endings’: Youth Music and Affective Politics in Post-Revolutionary Egypt. (book manuscript in progress)

Forthcoming. Roundtable editor, ‘Approaching Creative Expression after the 2011 Egyptian Revolution’. International Journal of Middle East Studies. (expected November 2020)

In press. ‘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. (expected April 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.

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

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

Reviews

Forthcoming. Book Review of: Martyrs and Tricksters: An Ethnography of the Egyptian Revolution, by Walter Armbrust (Princeton University Press, 2019). Review of Middle East Studies.

Book Review of: Melancholic Modalities: Affect, Islam, and Turkish Classical Musicians, by Denise Gill (Oxford University Press, 2017). Sound Studies 4 (1): 83-85.

Book Review of: Cairo Pop: Youth Music in Contemporary Egypt, by Daniel Gilman (University of Minnesota Press, 2014). Ethnomusicology Review. October 6.

Teaching and Biography

At Oxford, Darci teaches a graduate seminar on music, sound, and theories of affect in the Music Faculty and a graduate seminar on ethnographic research methods of arts and performance in the School of Anthropology. She is keen to work with students on topics related to DIY culture, music and activism, race, gender and sexuality, sound studies, feminist and queer theories, and contemporary popular cultures of the Middle East.

Before coming to Oxford, Darci was a Visiting Assistant Professor in music at Beloit College (Wisconsin, USA), and she has also taught at the American University of Cairo and the University of California, Los Angeles. She holds a PhD and MA in ethnomusicology with a concentration in gender studies from the University of California, Los Angeles as well as bachelor’s degrees in viola performance (BMA) and Arabic/Middle Eastern studies (BA) from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She has studied Arabic at the University of Alexandria (Egypt), Damascus University (Syria), and al Akhawayn University (Morocco).

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