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T. Carlis Roberts

Associate Professor

I am a scholar, teacher, and artist devoted to exploring the aesthetic, political, and spiritual potential of performance. My research investigates the connections between sound and social identities, centering on marginalized histories of popular and folk music in the Americas. Specific interests include: interracial musical collaboration, music of enslaved Africans in the U.S. and Caribbean, intercultural percussion performance, women’s drumming communities, diasporic connections in African American and Afro-Caribbean folkloric traditions, queer and trans popular music making, and the technology and politics of spiritual musical practice. In all, my work engages how music is used to construct individual identities and communities–often of seemingly disparate individuals–while at the same time holding the potential to render our lives more complexly than static labels of race, gender, sexuality, etc.

I also work as a composer, sound designer, and performer in music, theater, dance, and film. More details on my website.


Resounding Afro Asia: Interracial Music and the Politics of Collaboration. Oxford University Press, 2016.

Yellow Power, Yellow Soul: The Radical Art of Fred Ho. Co-edited with Roger Buckley. University of Illinois Press, 2013.

Multimedia Projects

A Charge to Keep. The Spiritual Technologies Project. 2016.


Michael Jackson’s Kingdom: Race, Music, and the Sound of the Mainstream.” Journal of Popular Music Studies 23.1 (March 2011).

Michael Jackson in/as U.S. Popular Culture. Special issue of Journal of Popular Music Studies 23.1 March 2011 (with Brandi Wilkins Catanese).

Book Chapters

“Voicing Masculinity.” Blacktino Queer Performance. Eds. E. Patrick Johnson and Ramón H. Rivera-Servera. Duke University Press, 2016.

“The Elusive Truth: Intercultural Music Exchange in ‘Addictive.’” Interculturalism: Exploring Critical Issues. Eds. Dianne Powell and Fiona Sze. Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2004, pg. 83-86.

Encyclopedia Entries

Intercultural and interracial music.” Encyclopedia of American Music and Culture. Ed. Jacqueline Edmondson. ABC-CLIO, 2013.


I have given talks, guest lectures, and keynote addresses at conferences and institutions including: Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM), Performance Studies International (PSi), American Studies Association (ASA), Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE), Society for American Music (SAM), International Conference of the Collegium for African American Research (CAAR), Association of Asian American Studies (AAAS), Heidelberg University Center for American Studies, Society for Multi-Ethnic Studies: Europe and and the Americas (MESEA), Japan Black Studies Association (JBSA), Northwestern University, University of Chicago, DePaul University, Northpark Universty, UC San Diego, University of Oregon, UC Santa Cruz, Colorado College, Harvard University, University of Denver, University of Texas at Austin, UC San Diego, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University, and University of Wisconsin-Madison.


B.A. (Music and Drama), Colorado College, 2000
M.A. (Performance Studies), Northwestern University, 2003
Ph.D. (Performance Studies), Northwestern University, 2009