De Jong's research broadly explores the African diasporic experience through the combined lenses of music and culture. More specifically, it examines the identities forged by diasporic groups, including the cultural continuities and adaptations which contribute to their construction, and the ways in which these identities find expression in music. In addressing these complexities, she stresses three main themes: the cultural emergence of identity; the reshaping of identity; and the interaction of identity and cultural memory.
To date, her work focuses on American jazz, Caribbean music and the music of Southern and Central Africa. These areas, although often considered separate, overlap under the broad rubric of diasporic studies and, when viewed together, offer valuable opportunities to examine from different angles the complexities shaping black identity. In American jazz, her research focus has been on the avant-garde traditions of the 1960s and 70s, examining musicians’ collectives through the aesthetic principles of the Black Power movement. Within Caribbean music, her research emphasis has been on Curaçao, the largest of the Netherlands Antilles, with more recent research examining the role of music among Curaçaoans living in the Netherlands. As a Fulbright scholar, De Jong assumed a one-year residency at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and has since extended her research to include popular and traditional music traditions in Southern Africa (South Africa, Zimbabwe) and Central Africa (Democratic Republic of Congo and Republic of Congo).
De Jong is an accomplished classical and salsa flautist, serving as substitute flute with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and performing with such salsa greats as Johnny Pacheco and Celia Cruz.
De Jong is Principal Investigator on a recently awarded grant from the European Union’s ‘Investing in People’ scheme, which is funding the project Southern African Cultural Leadership (SACL), taking place in South Africa and Zimbabwe from January 2012 to January 2014. SACL is a governance and capacity-building initiative that is establishing public and private partnerships within South Africa and Zimbabwe’s cultural and creative industries that effectively bridge regions and nation groups while facilitating exchanges between policy-makers, artists, cultural and development specialists and civil societies on the importance of culture for development. The project is approached from the perspective that the role of cultural expressions in fighting social inequalities and discrimination can be enhanced when combated through collective sharing of expertise. For more information, please visit the SACL website: http://strengtheningafrica.com/.
The impact of SACL can be viewed at the Newcastle University website on 'Fighting Poverty Through Arts and Culture": http://www.ncl.ac.uk/impact/Music-art-culture.php
This grant is currently supporting an exchange programme involving Newcastle University students travelling to Southern Africa to conduct research and teach music workshops at area schools and colleges. If you are a current or prospective student and interested in participating in this exchange programme, please contact Nanette de Jong.
Future research projects centre on the ancestral Sangoma ritual from Southern Africa, the trans-Atlantic journey of Afro-Caribbean and jazz rhythms returning to Africa through globalisation, and African popular music, with an emphasis on the development of la Sape [Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes] among Congolese migrants.
De Jong's book Tambú: Curaçao's African-Caribbean Ritual and the Politics of Memory has been shortlisted for the 2013 Albert J. Raboteau Prize for Best Book in Africana Religions.
European Commission grant (2012-2014). Principal Investigator, awarded €400,000 under the theme 'Strengthening capacities in the cultural sector' with 'Investing in People' EuropeAid funding programme.
Editorial Group (2012-Present). Popular Music (Cambridge University Press).
Co-Editor (2012-Present). Radical Musicology (produced in ICMuS, Newcastle University)
Fulbright Fellowship (2006-2007). Awarded for travel to South Africa, conducting research on the trans-Atlantic interaction and creation of a cultural African Diaspora through mutual influences in music.
Bildner Fellow (2002-2005). Awarded for commitment to curriculum development and interdisciplinary learning.
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