Esther Viola Kurtz

Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology
BM, Eastman School of Music
MM, Utrecht School of the Arts in the Netherlands
Ph.D, ethnomusicology at Brown University
research interests:
  • Afro-Brazilian music and dance, cultural politics, ethnographic ethics, decolonizing practices
    View All People

    contact info:

    image of book cover

    Professor Kurtz’s research focuses on Afro-Brazilian music, sound, movement and dance practices. She teaches courses on topics such as ethnographic methods, ethnomusicology, sound and dance studies, and (Afro-)Latin American music.

    Esther Viola Kurtz received her B.M. at the Eastman School of Music (1998), her M.M. at the Utrecht School of the Arts in the Netherlands (2003), and her Ph.D. in ethnomusicology at Brown University (2018).


    Her current book project, Black Movements: The Racial Politics of Capoeira Angola of Backland Bahia, is an ethnographic study of a group of capoeira Angola, an Afro-Brazilian musical fight-dance-game. The book explores how music and movement bring together practitioners of diverse racial, gendered, class and geographical positions. At the same time, it examines the implications of white participation in a deeply spiritual and political Afro-Brazilian practice. This means that the project turns a critical lens to the well-meaning white liberal subject in order to complicate notions of cross-racial affinity in a participatory music-movement practice.

    Professor Kurtz has presented at national and international conferences, including at annual meetings of the Brazilian Studies Association, the Society for Ethnomusicology and the Dance Studies Association (formerly the Congress on Research in Dance).


    Her work has been supported by the Mellon Foundation’s Graduate Dissertation Workshop, the Professor James N. Green Grant for research in Brazil, Brown University's Office of Global Engagement Global Mobility Graduate Research Fellowship, and the Mellon Summer Seminar in Dance Studies.




    Music, Sound and the Body

    American Popular Music and Media

    History of Jazz

    Introduction to Ethnomusicology



    Methods and Ethics of Music Ethnography