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Faculty Fellow

Jessica Swanston Baker

Assistant Professor of Music University of Chicago


Photo by Erielle Bakkum

Jessica Swanston Baker is an ethnomusicologist who specializes in contemporary popular music of and in the Circum-Caribbean. Her research and critical interests include tempo and aesthetics, coloniality, decolonization, and race/gender and respectability. Her work focuses on issues within Caribbean theory pertaining to small islands-nations such as representation and invisibility, vulnerability, and sovereignty. Her current book project, The Aesthetics of Speed: Music and the Modern in St. Kitts and Nevis, examines the relationship between tempo perception and gendered and raced legacies of colonization. Through historical and ethnographic analysis of polysemantic colloquialisms and music reception, she argues that colonial understandings of black femininity and Enlightenment notions of musicianship frame local perceptions of wylers, a style of Kittitian-Nevisian popular music, as “too fast.” Her most recent article, “Black Like Me: Caribbean Tourism and the St. Kitts Music Festival,” centers on black diasporic travel between the US and the Caribbean, and the performance and consumption of American soul music within the context of Caribbean music festivals.


Silhouettes of people walking in front of a mural of a cityscape

The Contours of Black Citizenship in a Global Context

2018 – 2022