Kurtz awarded BECHS-Africa Fellowship

Ethnomusicologist Esther Viola Kurtz will spend the fall 2023 semester in residence at the University of Ghana.

Esther Viola Kurtz

Esther Viola Kurtz, assistant professor of ethnomusicology in the Department of Music and an affiliate of the Performing Arts Department and Department of African and African-American Studies, has been awarded a BECHS-Africa Fellowship for the fall 2023 semester. She will spend the semester in residence in the Department of Dance Studies at the University of Ghana in Accra. 

During her residency, she will complete revisions to her first book manuscript, “Groundwork: The Racial Politics of Capoeira Angola in Backland Bahia.” The book is an ethnography evaluating the limits and possibilities for capoeira, a musical fight-dance-game, to contribute to antiracist activism in Brazil. Kurtz will also develop her second book project, which explores how the racial dynamics discussed in “Groundwork” manifest in the detailed music-movement play of capoeira games.

The BECHS-Africa Fellowship, funded by the Mellon Foundation, is aimed at enhancing research capacity for early career scholars in the humanities. With the University of Ghana as the lead institution, Washington University has partnered with three African universities — which also includes American University in Cairo and Stellenbosch University (South Africa) — in the fellowship program. During the period of stay, the host institution facilitates targeted mentorship and guidance for the selected scholars as well as opportunities for the sharing of research ideas and methodologies.

André Fisher, assistant professor in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, was WashU’s first BECHS-Africa Fellow, spending the fall 2022 semester in residence with the University of Ghana’s Institute of African Studies (IAS). The Center for the Humanities has hosted four BECHS fellows from partner institutions since 2020.