Associate Professor; Area Coordinator of Musicology
N486 Timashev Building
1866 College Rd
Columbus, OH 43210
Areas of Expertise
- Ethnomusicology, Cultural Anthropology
- African Studies, Global Black Studies
- PhD, Ethnomusicology, Columbia University (2009)
Ryan Skinner is a musical anthropologist who studies the expressive cultures and social worlds of contemporary Africa and its European diaspora, with extensive fieldwork conducted in Mali and Sweden. Specializing in the analytic and interpretive methods of cultural anthropology and ethnomusicology, Skinner’s research focuses on issues of popular culture, ethics and aesthetics, public piety, cultural policy, intellectual property, racial identity and politics, and new social movements in the African world. Skinner’s scholarship and criticism has appeared in such journals as Scandinavian Studies, African and Black Diaspora, Africa Today, Research in African Literatures, Anthropological Quarterly, Africa, IASPM@Journal, Popular Music, and Mande Studies. He is also a contributor to the popular African Studies website, Africa is a Country.
Skinner is the author of Bamako Sounds: The Afropolitan Ethics of Malian Music (University of Minnesota Press, 2015), an ethnographic and historical study of popular music in Mali (West Africa). Bamako Sounds centers the music and musicians of Bamako, Mali’s booming capital city, to reveal a community of artists whose lives and works evince a complex “Afropolitan” world shaped by urban culture, post-colonialism, musical expression, religious identity, and intellectual property.
Skinner’s second monograph, Afro-Sweden: Becoming Black in a Color-Blind Country (Minnesota, 2022), examines the social history and public culture of Sweden’s diverse and growing African and Black community. Rooted in contemporary Sweden and routed throughout Africa and its diaspora, Afro-Swedes (afrosvenskar) are part of a growing Afro-diasporic presence in contemporary Europe. Through ethnographic inquiry, textual analysis, and historical study, Afro-Sweden explores understandings and expressions of Afro-Swedish identity in the public sphere, with a particular emphasis on the performing and visual arts. Afro-Sweden can be read online in its entirety, thanks to a generous TOME (Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem) grant for open access publication.
Skinner’s current book project is a biographical study of filmmaker, Dani Kouyaté. Raised in a renowned family of griots (Mande bards and storytellers) in Burkina Faso, trained in the cinematic arts in France, and currently settled with his family in Sweden, Dani Kouyaté embodies the existential tensions of living with multiple roots along expansive, though at times restrictive routes. This research examines — through close reading, oral history and sustained dialogue — the existential and aesthetic philosophies that animate Kouyaté’s diasporic life, work and worldview.
Alongside his scholarship, Skinner is the author and illustrator of an award-winning children's book, Sidikiba's Kora Lesson (Beaver's Pond Press, 2008), and he is an accomplished kora (21-stringed West African harp) player.
At Ohio State, Skinner serves as director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of African American and African Studies and coordinates the Musicology area in the School of Music. He holds affiliations with the Departments of French and Italian and Germanic Languages and Literatures.
Selected Articles and Book Chapters
- 2022. “Afro-Swedish Renaissance,” in Migration and Multiculturalism in Scandinavia (The University of Wisconsin Press)
- 2019. "A Pious Poetics of Place: Islam and the interpellation of (im)moral subjects in Malian popular music," in Approaches to the Qur'an in Sub-Saharan Africa (Oxford University Press)
- 2018. “Walking, Talking, Remembering: An Afro-Swedish Critique of Being-in-the-world,” African and Black Diaspora
- 2017. “Why Afropolitanism Matters,” Africa Today
- 2015. “An Afropolitan Muse,” Research in African Literatures
- 2013. “Money Trouble in an African Art World: Copyright, Piracy, and the Politics of Culture in Postcolonial Mali,” IASPM@Journal
- 2012. “Cultural Politics in the Post-Colony: Music, Nationalism, and Statism in Mali, 1964–1975,” Africa: Journal of the International African Institute
- 2012. “Artists, Music Piracy, and the Crisis of Political Subjectivity in Contemporary Bamako,” Anthropological Quarterly
- 2010. “Civil Taxis and Wild Trucks: The Dialectics of Social Space and Subjectivity in Dimanche à Bamako,” Popular Music