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Darci  Sprengel

Dr Darci Sprengel

Lecturer in the Music Industry

Biography

Before joining CMCI in 2022, I was an Assistant Professor of Popular Music at the University of Groningen (Netherlands), and I previously held a Junior Research Fellowship at the University of Oxford. I have taught at the University of Groningen, University of Oxford, Beloit College, the American University of Cairo, and the University of California, Los Angeles. I hold 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. I have studied Arabic at the University of Alexandria (Egypt), Damascus University (Syria), and al Akhawayn University (Morocco).

Research interests and PhD supervision

  • Global music industries and popular musics
  • Critical race and feminist approaches to digital media
  • Algorithmic bias/oppression and critical data studies
  • Imperial/colonial politics of technology
  • Ethnographic methods and ethnomusicology
  • Southwest Asia and North Africa region (especially Egypt)

My current research investigates the imperial power dynamics at play in the globalization of music streaming platforms, including Spotify, Deezer, YouTube, and Amazon Music, as they expand across the global South. Considering this expansion in relation to longer histories of inequality between global North and South and inequalities within the music industries, my work questions: (1) how streaming platforms represent non-Western musics and musicians as well as inform music production, consumption and distribution in local music economies; (2) how imaginaries of who listeners are—which necessarily engage intersecting formations of race, nationality, class, gender, ethnicity and so on—get solidified into online infrastructures in ways that may perpetuate digital exclusions and inequalities, enacting digital orientalism and/or algorithmic oppression; and (3) how homegrown local platforms based in the global South may provide alternative models that decentre the Western listener. Bringing together feminist and critical race approaches to digital media with sustained ethnographic research among users and industry professionals in Cairo, Beirut, and Dubai, the project aims to develop strategies for making digital music technologies more ethical and inclusive. This project is funded by the British Academy and the European Research Commission.

My previous work examined Egypt’s DIY music scenes (independent music and mahraganat) in the wake of the 2011 Egyptian revolution, focusing especially on class politics and music activism in public space.

I am keen to work with students on topics related to the global music industries, sound and artificial intelligence, digital media inequalities, DIY music cultures and global popular music, feminist, queer and critical race theories, ethnography/ethnomusicology, and contemporary popular cultures of the Southwest Asia and North Africa region.

Selected publications

Peer-reviewed articles

Under review “From Grassroots Initiatives to Imperial Lag: Theorizing the Platformisation of the Creative Industries from the Global South.”

Under review “Research Partnerships between Ethnographers and the Music Tech Industry: Possibilities and Limitations.”

2020 “Reframing the ‘Arab Winter’: The Importance of Sleep and a Quiet Atmosphere after ‘Defeated’ Revolutions.” Culture, Theory & Critique 61 (2-3): 246-266.

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.

2019 “‘More Powerful than Politics’: Affective Magic in the DIY Music Activism after Egypt’s 2011 Revolution.” Popular Music 38 (1): 54-72.

2018 “Challenging the Narrative of ‘Arab Decline’: Independent Music as Traces of Alexandrian Futurity.” Égypte/Monde Arabe 17: 135-55.

Book chapters

In preparation “Data Colonization and Its Refusals: The Case of Egypt’s Independent Music Scenes.” In Digital Platforms in the Global South: Shaping a Critical Approach, edited by Philip Bouquillion, Christina Ithurbide, and Tristan Mattelart. London: Routledge.

Under review “The Classed, Gendered, and Imperial Politics of Digital Distribution in the Arabic Music Industry.” In The Oxford Handbook to the Global Music Industries, edited by K.E. Goldschmitt and Jayson Beaster-Jones. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Under review “Curating Tarab on Music Streaming Services: The Cultural Politics of Localization and Algorithmic Bias on Spotify, Anghami, and Deezer.” In Ṭarab: Music, Ecstasy, Emotion, and Performance, edited by Michael Frishkopf, Dwight Reynolds, and Scott Marcus. Austin: University of Texas Press.

In press “Unsettling the Dominance of Euro-American Constructions of Race in the Egyptian Independent Music Scene.” In At the Crossroads of Music and Social Justice, edited by Brenda M. Romero, Susan M. Asai, David A. McDonald, Andrew G. Snyder, and Katelyn E. Best. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. (Expected Feb. 2023)

2020 “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.

Reviews

2020 Book Review: Martyrs and Tricksters: An Ethnography of the Egyptian Revolution, by Walter Armbrust (Princeton University Press, 2019). Review of Middle East Studies 54 (2): 352-354.

2018 Book Review: Melancholic Modalities: Affect, Islam, and Turkish Classical Musicians, by Denise Gill (Oxford University Press, 2017). Sound Studies 4 (1): 83-85.

2016 Book Review: Cairo Pop: Youth Music in Contemporary Egypt, by Daniel Gilman (University of Minnesota Press, 2014). Ethnomusicology Review. 6 October. Available at: https://ethnomusicologyreview.ucla.edu/content/review-cairo-pop-youth-music-contemporary-egypt

Special issues edited

  • 2020 “Approaching Creative Expression after the 2011 Egyptian Revolution.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 52 (3): 489-558. Roundtable comprising of thirteen essays.

Other publications/public outreach

Teaching

I teach modules covering the global music industries, colonialism, capitalism and imperialism, music, sound and culture, AI and data, music and the Internet, global and transnational fandoms, digital inequalities and research methods.