Welcome! My name is Eric J. Schmidt. I’m a Ph.D. candidate at the UCLA Department of Ethnomusicology, writing an ethnography concerning how music serves as a focal point for Tuareg communities in the Sahel and Sahara as they reckon with their increasing entanglement in global capitalism. For more information on my professional activities, see my CV.

I first developed this blog with the intention of serving two core purposes: first, to keep my family and friends updated on my travel and research; and secondly, to establish a sandbox in which I can pour out rough thoughts on my experiences, observations, readings, and listenings. Meeting these dual goals can be challenging while completely immersed in an academic field that frequently embraces the esoteric, but one which at the same time often strives to support the voices and cultures of people who do not have the privilege of pursuing higher education. Writing for all of these audiences—academics as well as friends, family, and colleagues worldwide who may not be knee-deep in ethnomusicology—is therefore an exercise that I feel is of fundamental importance to the work I hope to do now and throughout my career. I expect the structure and content of my blog to evolve with my research interests and increasing sensitivity for the people with whom I engage.

Please note that the views expressed on my blog are my own, and do not reflect the US Department of State, the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, American Councils for International Education, the Critical Language Scholarship Program, or the Arab American Language Institute in Morocco.

About My Projects

Niger (2016)

  • I returned to Niger in 2016 for dissertation research funded by the US Department of State’s Fulbright US Student (IIE) Grant and the Arnold Rubin Award at the Fowler Museum at UCLA.

Niger (Summer 2014)

  • Following an intensive program in Hausa language at the African Flagship Language Initiative Program (AFLI) at the University of Florida, I returned to Niger for additional networking with several individuals and institutions involved in Nigerien popular music, festivals, and tourism, especially among Tuareg. Funded by the UCLA Graduate Division’s Graduate Summer Research Mentorship.

Morocco (Summer 2013)

  • I participated in an intensive Arabic language learning program at the Arab American Language Institute in Morocco (AALIM) in Meknès, Morocco through the Critical Language Scholarship, administered by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and American Councils for International Education. I lived with Moroccan host families and was enrolled in classes for Modern Standard Arabic (fus’ha) and Moroccan Arabic (darija). The intensity of the program did not leave much room for dedicated music research, but it did provide an excellent chance to engage with Moroccan culture and observe life on the opposite end of the Sahara from where I expect to do the bulk of my research.

Niger (Summer 2012)

  •  I spent the summer conducting preliminary explorations on the feasibility of various research projects on music and media practices in Niamey. I also enrolled in private language lessons in French and Tamasheq and volunteered with Rain for the Sahel and Sahara, an organization partnering with nomadic and desert populations in Niger to help them realize their aspirations for sustainable educational and economic development. Funded by the UCLA Graduate Division’s Graduate Summer Research Mentorship.


About the Photos

The background image was taken at sunset while I was riding a pirogue (canoe) on the Niger River just north of Niamey, Niger in September 2012. The header image is of the entrance to the Grand Mosque in Agadez, Niger, taken in September 2014.