Joyful Resonances: Spirituality and Civic Engagement in the Music of the Congolese Diaspora

Eugenio Giorgianni

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The research explores musical expressions of spirituality and political discourses produced by diasporic Congolese popular music makers through a participatory audiovisual ethnography. The main research fields are the following: elaboration of a Congolese musical nationalism in London underground jazz and African music scene; and the weekly performance of the music-based Congolese Catholic liturgy by the Bondeko parish choir in Rome, Italy. The common thread among these experiences is the idea of joy as a Central African mode of social and political action connecting human bodies to other entities through collective music-induced sensory ecstasy. The fluid nature of this ritual nexus links social reproduction to contact with the empowering, legitimating dead, configuring otherness (cultural, spiritual, and digital) as a source of vital energy. Thanks to the inclusive nature of music rites, Congolese musicians negotiate their position through new creative encounters, fostering processes of transculturation. The scenic display of Africanness spectacularises the diasporic joyful nexus without losing its ritual efficacy, while at the same time attracting other social and musical actors into the creative nexus. By renewing and pluralising the contact with their ancestors, these diasporic actors creatively face dramatic postcolonial challenges, and make a critique of their society in increasingly digitalised transnational Congolese public opinion by projecting their desires, longings, and frustrations onto the image of a redeemed Congo. The camera becomes an element of inclusion in music making and an intensifier of fieldwork relationships and emotions through the creation of collaborative music video clips with the musicians. Collaborative research practice and bodily involvement in music making through the camera give space for rethinking ethnomusicological practices through nonverbal forms of fieldwork interactions and more inclusive modes of academic communication.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Ramnarine, Tina K., Supervisor
  • Baker, Geoff, Supervisor
  • Johnson, Julian, Advisor
  • Summers, Timothy, Advisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Nov 2020
Publication statusUnpublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • Migration studies
  • Anthropology of Music
  • Audiovisual ethnography
  • Collaborative research
  • Ethnographic grounded music video clips
  • Sensory ethnography
  • Congolese diaspora
  • Congolese music
  • African Christian music
  • Theology of Inculturation
  • Diasporic music
  • Transnational Music
  • Postcolonialism
  • Musical Ethnofiction

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