Michelle Kisliuk

Associate Professor (Critical & Comparative Studies)

Old Cabell 201
Office Hours: by appointment


Michelle Kisliuk. Ph.D. NYU Performance Studies. Associate Professor of Music, University of Virginia. Ethnographic research with BaAka forest people in the Central African Republic focusing on musical life, dance, and the arts and politics of everyday. Additional field research in African popular musics and American bluegrass. Conceptual areas of interest include sound/listening studies, improvisation, play, dance and gesture, Jewish identities (including African Jews), performance theory, conceptual and experimental performance/art, climate/environmental activism as intersecting with creative/expressive life, and the interests of African hunter-foragers/the politics of indigeneity (circling back to environmental activism). I endeavor to disrupt essentialisms, hierarchies, supremacies and binaries (e.g art/life, theory/practice, performance/scholarship, objective/subjective, tradition/modernity, including binaries and supremacies of race, gender, and class). Emphasizing processes rather than objects, I teach undergraduates and graduate students in courses including “Listening to Everyday Life: play, improvisation, making community;” “Ethnography of Performance” (creative nonfiction and poetics); “Performing Antiquities and Modernities” (graduate seminar); “Performance in Africa” (undergraduate combination of ensemble and seminar); and the UVA African Music and Dance Ensemble (currently subtitled Roots and Shoots). In all of my courses we connect practice to the realities of students’ lives, the politics that surround us, including issues of representation and legacies of racism and privilege. I recently co-led the UVA-wide Mellon lab in Embodied Creative Practices with a focus on the “global south.” Books: Seize the Dance! BaAka Musical Life and the Ethnography of Performance (Oxford University Press 1998/2001) and Forthcoming co-edited volume (with Sidra Lawrence) intimate entanglements in the ethnography of performance: race, gender, vulnerability (University of Rochester Press) which includes my essay “Ethnography and its Double(s): theorizing the personal with Jews in Ghana.” Selected essays in collections include “(Un)Doing Fieldwork: Sharing Songs, Sharing Lives” in Shadows in the Field (Barz and Cooley eds), “Performance and Modernity Among BaAka Pygmies: A Closer Look at the Mystique of Egalitarian Foragers in the Rain Forest" in Music and Gender (Diamond and Moisala eds), “The Poetics and Politics of Practice: Experience, Embodiment, and the Engagement of Scholarship” in Teaching Performance Studies: Theories, Practices, Pedagogies (Stuckey and Wimmer, eds.), “Writing the Magnified Musicking Moment” in Theorizing Sound Writing (Kapchan ed), “BaAka Singing in a State of Emergency: storytelling and listening as medium and message” in Cultural Sustainabilities (Cooley ed), “What’s the ‘It’ That we Learn to Perform? Teaching BaAka Music and Dance” in Performing Ethnomusicology (T. Solis ed), and “A Special Kind of Courtesy: Action at a Bluegrass Festival Jam Session” in TDR: A Journal of Performance Studies (Schechner ed).


UVA Department of Music
112 Old Cabell Hall
P.O. Box 400176 Charlottesville, VA 22904-4176