2014 Chicago Folklore Prize Awarded to David McDonald, My Voice is My Weapon
Monday, December 8, 2014
Posted by: Lorraine Cashman
have regularly positioned themselves within the socio-political conversations
of their time, testament to the common and fundamentally human impulse to
respond with creativity to controversy and tension, ambiguity and uncertainty.
At its best, such research reveals the beauty and hope that can prevail despite
the most trying circumstances, and reveal the personal dimensions of local,
national, and international conflict.
year’s recipient of the Chicago Folklore Prize for the best scholarly monograph
in folklore is a bold and timely contribution to this branch of folklore
studies, challenging us to continue to address even the most fraught conflicts
around the world.
McDonald’s book My Voice is My Weapon: Music,
Nationalism, and the Poetics of Palestinian Resistance, published by Duke University Press, provides a
powerful examination of how Palestinian identity has been constructed and
negotiated through the music of protest. Unwilling to accept pat generic
conventions, McDonald takes a performance-based approach to define and
interpret Palestinian music from the late Ottoman period to today, considering
how a vast array of musical traditions and genres have been used and adapted
for protest. The
result is a sweeping book that never loses sight of the individuals who have
created, shaped, and transformed Palestinian music.
enters this highly charged arena with the methodological and theoretical tools
of a folklorist, ethnomusicologist, ethnographer, and historian, immersing
himself within Palestinian communities in Israel, in exile and under
occupation. His careful, at times breathtaking fieldwork places individual artists such as the eloquent, dynamic
Kamal Khalil within personal, political, and historical contexts. In doing so,
McDonald tackles complex questions about hegemony, power, nationalism and
tradition, discussions that promise to energize and engage folklorists and
fieldworkers, McDonald meets the Palestinian musicians where they stand and
works to provide an emic understanding not only of the music of protest, but also
of the tensions that underlie that protest. Some readers may wish for a similar
treatment of Israeli views and musical traditions and it is our hope that
McDonald’s excellent study will encourage similarly nuanced and sympathetic portraits throughout the Middle East.
For its excellence in
balancing scholarly rigor with ambitious scope, historical context with
individual performance, and careful ethnographic method with theoretical
sophistication, the American Folklore
Society is proud to award this year’s Chicago Folklore Prize to David McDonald
for My Voice is My Weapon:
Music, Nationalism, and the Poetics of Palestinian Resistance.