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Gwendolen von Einsiedel, Tulane University

Gwendolen von Einsiedel

Global South Fellowship 2018

Gwendolen is a doctoral candidate in Ethnomusicology at St Catherine’s College, University of Oxford. She holds a MA (Hons) in Social Anthropology from the University of Edinburgh and a MA in Classical and Contemporary Performance from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. As a musician and folklorist she has extensive experience working in a wide range of community settings and continues to teach and perform alongside her PhD. Gwendolen has also produced several photo-films for the BBC on vernacular music and cultural practices and is a regular host of The Nest Collective hour, a folk music radio show on London’s Resonance FM. Most recently she produced the podcast series ‘Singing Windrush: Calypso in Britain’ for the University of Oxford’s Research Centre for the Humanities to coincide with the 70th anniversary of SS Empire Windrush arriving in Britain.


Zydeco Beats and Dancing Horses: Identity, rhythm and non-human actors at Creole trail rides in Southwest Louisiana

Zydeco is a snappy, accordion-led dance music rooted in the African French Creole communities of Southwest Louisiana. A distinctive feature of the zydeco music scene is the practice of trail riding - spirited social occasions centred around celebrating food, horses and zydeco. The focus of my doctoral research explores how Creoles in Southwest Louisiana use horses and zydeco music to communicate and maintain notions of Black Creole identity By conducting extended fieldwork in the region, I will investigate how the relationship between humans and horses has played a role in the creation of a distinctive musical landscape and regional ethnic identity. I will aim to understand the social phenomenon of trail rides and the evolution of zydeco as part of the process of cultural creolization. It is my intention to demonstrate how horses have become an integral part of this process, extending the notion of creolization to include ‘a mingling of human subjects and cultures’ where the non-human becomes an integral actor to the maintenance and creation of social worlds. I will also attend to the ways in which zydeco music changes as it takes on elements of rap and hip hop to create a persistent link between urban and rural Black subjectivities. This research will contribute to existing studies of rural social phenomena, animal-human relationships and deepen the understanding of the impact zydeco and trail riding has had on Creole identity. In addition to writing up in a final thesis, I intend to use my field recordings and interviews to make a short documentary film on the topic.