Fox, Aaron

Aaron A. Fox
Associate Professor of Music (Ethnomusicology)
Administrative Roles: 
Head of Ethnomusicology Area Committee, (2013-14); Director of Graduate Studies for Music (2013-14 ); Webmaster
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804 Dodge Halll (Mail Code 1822)
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By appointment preferred. Please EMAIL, and do not call, except for urgent situations. (Fall 2013)
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Aaron Fox came to Columbia in 1997. He  taught from 1994-1997 at the University of Washington, Seattle in the Departments of Anthropology and Music. He holds the PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin (1995), and the AB in Music from Harvard College.

Aaron chaired the Department from 2008 to 2011.

Aaron's work has broadly focused on language/music relationships, working-class and popular culture, music and social identity, issues of place and subjectivity, ethnographic methodology, and  semiotics and poetics.

In recent years Aaron has focused on issues of cultural and intellectual property and the repatriation of Native American cultural resources, as part of a broader interest in cultural survival and sustainability and music-centered community activism.  He is currently working with  Dr. Chie Sakakibara (Lecturer in American Indian Studies, University of Oklahoma) on a "community partnered repatriation" of traditional music recordings made by Laura Boulton in 1946, with the Inupiat community of Alaska's North Slope.  This project is supported by the National Science Foundation's Arctic Social Sciences Program. He is involved in other repatriation projects in development with the Navajo and Hopi tribes and with an Appalachian music collection.

In addition to his focus on American vernacular musics (especially country, blues, r&b, and Tejano genres), he also teaches on South Asian and Arabic art musics, Aboriginal and indigenous musics, and song as a universal, cross-cultural phenomenon.  His former students teach at Connecticut College, Ewha University (Korea), The University of California, Santa Barbara, The College of Richmond, Tulane University, The University of Oklahoma, American University of Cairo, The University of Hawai'i, and the Ohio University, and have held postdoctoral fellowships at Yale, Kenyon, Oxford (UK), New York University, Cambridge University, and Columbia University. Their research has been supported by fellowships and grants from NSF, ACLS, SSRC, Fulbright, IREX, Tinker Foundation, Wenner-Gren Foundation, Ford Foundation, FLAS, and other major granting agencies.

At Columbia, Aaron teaches courses entitled "The Social Science of Music," "Music and Language," "Music and Property," "Country Music," "Social Theory and the Arts," "Field Methods," and occasionally, "Asian Music Humanities (South and West Asia)." He also teaches the graduate proseminars in ethnomusicology, and the graduate and undergraduate field methods courses.

Aaron has served as a past Councilor for the Society for Ethnomusicology, and as a Board member for the American Ethnological Society. He was Chair of the Department of Music from 2008-2011. From 2003-2008, he was Director of the Center for Ethnomusicology.

Aaron's book, Real Country: Music and Language in Working-Class Culture, was published by Duke University Press in 2004.

Here are some resources to learn about Aaron's work:


Buy Real Country: Music and Language in Working-Class Culture from

"Real Country is one of the most rewarding and insightful books yet written about country music." -- Jon Weisberger, Country Standard Time

" . . . a creative, sophisticated, and beautifully written contribution to contemporary scholarship." -- Geoff Mann, Labour/Le Travail

". . . a theoretically sophisticated and beautifully written ethnography, giving readers a lyrical depiction of working class Texan barroom life, while developing a theory of the speaking and singing voice as central to working class culture." -- Wendi Haugh, Anthropological Quarterly

"Fox's work brings an important and much-needed sense of a truly materialist ideology to the study of language. It is, as well, perhaps the finest ethnographic work on music and class to have been published in the past 20 years." -- David Samuels, Language in Society

"Fox has written an extraordinary, evocative, and respectful study that offers scholars in anthropology, linguistics, musicology, and sociology access to a culture that is all too often dismissed, sentimentalized, or ignored . . ." -- Joli Jensen, Journal of Anthropological Research