Aaron Van Klyton
Department of Geography
King’s College London
The social life of musicians: transnational spaces, performances, and identities of 'world music' performers
My research looks at western consumption of West African music. The performers of this art are migrants and living cultural commodities at the end of a commodity chain. Under the ‘World Music’ moniker, they produce and reproduce identities and imageries that originate outside of the places where they live and work; in doing so, they contribute to symbolic economies of cities. However, they must maintain perceptions of authenticity that emphasize particular aspects of a non-western identity.
Looking at the global city, London, England, I am exploring how political ideologies of integration, namely, British multiculturalism, influence audiences’ consumption of this product. I examine if this consumption, which occurs in designated spaces, has any relationship to ideas about an ‘Other’ and, if so does it reflect and/or contradict everyday interactions in multi-ethnic cities.
Product knowledge plays a part in two ways: First, I examine whether this commodity and its producers, many of whom are immigrants, have been reshaped and sufficiently dissociated from dominant (anti)migration discourses, in part to satisfy commercial interests. Secondly, I examine the role of consumers: on one level, audiences may consume this product as a means of resistance against mainstream cultural norms and expectations valuing these artists in particular ways in performance venues; whereas, in city spaces and immigration discourses, different perceptions of immigrants may prevail.
Aaron holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Economics from the University of Illinois. After working as Senior Portfolio Analyst in the trust banking sector, he began teaching economics and business communications at universities in the Chicago area.
He left the United States in 2003 to live in East Asia, where he taught as university lecturer in Business Communications and English for Academic Purposes (EAP). While there, he rose to head of the hiring committee for the English language programme, a position he held for two years.
In 2007, he arrived in London to begin research on migration and identity. He currently teaches managerial economics for an MBA programme and quantitative methods for business at a leading London business school. He is currently the student representative on the Human Research Ethics Committee and co-coordinator of the Cities’ Seminar Series.