The [Imaginary] Final Paper – Designing a Research Project at Multiple Scales

Assignment for SEMN 295/MUSC 295 – The World Through New Orleans

Project Description

Early on in the term, each student will decide on a topic of interest for their research paper. This can be an individual artist, a particular recording, a dance, a physical site, a historical event, or a stylistic feature of a musical subgenre or practice. While you are not limited to a specific range of subjects, you should choose a concrete person/place/thing/event (rather than a more abstract concept) that is embedded in an existing musical culture of or related to New Orleans. The subject does not need to be geographically restricted to New Orleans itself.

The task for this project is not to “write a paper” about the subject. Rather, each student will develop a bibliography, discography, and potential research agenda that could be used to explore a variety of questions about the subject. These questions will range in type, from the factual to the theoretical, and in scope, from the type of question that might make an interesting footnote to the type of question that would be the basis for a scholarly monograph. You will not, importantly, be asked to actually complete more than discrete elements of this research agenda. Thus you will construct a bibliography that is larger than what you could possibly read in a 10 week term, and will detail potential research methodologies and practices that you will not be able to undertake during the Fall.

The point of this project is not only to explore the topic at hand, but to begin to ask questions about knowledge production and what counts as knowledge on this topic:

What kinds of knowledge are valued and understood as knowledge within the musical culture in question here? Who counts as a knowledgeable listener in this setting? How is that knowledge acquired, transmitted, or created? What kinds of inquiry would be relevant to understanding this subject? What methodologies or humanistic or social-scientific research are appropriate or useful for the exploration of this topic? What kinds of research are possible? Feasible? Ethical?

In the process of constructing a general overview for this subject you will write several abstracts for hypothetical academic papers and non-academic articles based on smaller-scale subsets of this imaginary research agenda. At the end of the term, you will give a preliminary presentation on one of these small-scale questions related to your topic.

Project Timeline

Week 4: Students select a research interest
Week 6: Abstract 1 Due.
Week 7: Abstract 2 Due.
Week 8: Student and Professor agree on final grading rubric.
Week 9: Mock exam due.
Week 10: Abstract 3 Due – Class Presentations

New Orleans Research Project

Assignment for ANSO/AFST 426Lest we Forget: Memory and Identity in the African Diaspora of New Orleans

The objective of the project is to develop an original interpretation of the relationship of memory to some aspects of African diasporic history and culture in New Orleans. Students can choose their projects, but projects must be designed with the assistance and approval of the professor. The research paper should be no less than 20 pages in length. I suggest you use this assignment to start thinking about the project you will be working on during the December experiential experience in New Orleans. I suggest reviewing the websites of our New Orleans community partners as a source of inspiration for ideas and topics for your papers.

Your paper will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Understanding of the concept, idea, or issue that you have chosen to investigate; and
  • Ability to draw upon, analyze and use the knowledge gained from the research in making an argument;
  • Clarity of writing (punctuation, grammar, sentence construction, spelling);
  • Formatting and style (use of standard in-text citation and referencing system).

NOLA Mapping Project

Assignment for ENGL 490 – NOLA Divided: Race in the Big Easy

There are two mapping components to this assignment. The first will be an entry into our course’s A Literary Guide to New Orleans site.

This entry should be approximately 4 pages in length and will blend the analysis in your research paper alongside an analysis of your text’s locational significance within New Orleans.  We will be using Google Maps, or some other type of GPS-dependent program to affix your entry to a particular point on a digitized map of NOLA. This location can be a particular site (the Lalaurie House), a street (one of the streets on the Mardi Gras route), a neighborhood (The French Quarter), etc. Ideally, your coverage of the text’s locational significance will contextualize the specific history embedded at the site, as well as its contemporary use and/or relevance. Of particular importance is to ensure that your textual analysis and research work cooperatively with the site location analysis. In other words, your textual analysis and research should inform the way you read and understand it as a site during your text’s time period and within contemporary New Orleans. The second mapping entry will use Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedeker’s Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas as a model for an alternative map—in both form and concept—of your literary site. Using your knowledge of this site as the grounding for your design, create a map that conceptualizes and represents the simultaneity of history, community, culture, systems of territorializing power, etc. embedded in this location. Your medium, materials, scale, and means of representation are part of the process of encoding and revealing the place.