Laura Boulton Professor of Folklore and Ethnomusicology
Project: "Ebola in Town": Critical Musical Connections in Liberian Communities during the 2014 Ebola Crisis in West Africa
In February 2015, Stone received an Indiana University Collaborative Research and Creative Activity Funding Award for her project "Ebola in Town": Critical Musical Connections in Liberian Communities during the 2014 Ebola Crisis in West Africa. During this project Professor Stone will partner with the Institute for Digital Arts and Humanities (IDAH) to segment, annotate, and analyze digital video data using the Annotators’ Workbench (AWB) software pioneered and developed by the EVIA Digital Archive (www.eviada.org), a project under IDAH and the Archives of Traditional Music (ATM).
Professor Stone will conduct ethnographic research to study how local Kpelle performers and audience members utilize indigenous music and the performing arts to unite and rebuild communities devastated by the ongoing Ebola epidemic. She will examine how the Kpelle use everyday expressions of music sound and motion to connect, and at the same time, negotiate ways of avoiding contracting the deadly virus as they navigate a bounded landscape in which physical contact is potentially lethal. Using the qualitative methods and techniques common in ethnomusicological research (fieldnotes, participant observation, playback interviews, video recordings, transcriptions) she will forge new paths of knowledge at the intersection of music and health. With the AWB software she will carry out an in-depth analysis of her digital video fieldwork recordings of dance, movement, gesture, and musical patterns, and will write descriptive annotations that explore how, in a climate of fear of contact, Kpelle musicians use music as a critical and vital tool of connection to creatively cooperate, and to intelligently comment on this overwhelming crisis.
This project will build on her previous research on musical performance during the Liberian civil war crisis and post-crisis period, and will complement her annotated video collection of Kpelle musical events deposited in our EVIA digital archive. The completed project will be peer-reviewed and made available online through the EVIA search and browse application (www.media.eviada.org) The work carried out under the CRCAF will also form the basis of a peer-reviewed article, and will lay the groundwork for collaborating with IDAH on an external funding application to expand the scope and depth of the project, and further explore how communities use the arts to facilitate interactions, construct networks, and provide emotional paths through conflict.