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date: 24 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter considers issues in repatriation of digital copies of field recordings of music obtained during the colonial era. It is based on the Hugh Tracey Collection preserved at the International Library of African Music (ILAM). A summary of Tracey’s early life and his work throughout sub-Saharan Africa from 1929 to 1972 is followed by the reasons why, with digital conversion and online access to the Collection accomplished, digital return and restudy of Tracey’s field recordings became the ethically responsible thing for ILAM to do. Description of the return of his Kipsigis recordings of “Chemirocha” to their source community in Kenya is followed by consideration of how Tracey’s embrace of the colonial worldview—with its inherent paternalism, racism, and white privilege—mandates digital return as an act of reciprocity and archival ethics. It suggests this gesture toward decolonization of ILAM serves as a model for decolonization of ethnomusicology at large.

Keywords: archival ethics, digital return, field recordings, reciprocity, repatriation

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