About

Profile picture of Chris Estrada

I am an Assistant Professor in the Portuguese program in Romance and Classical Studies at Michigan State University, where I also teach in the Integrated Arts and Humanities (IAH) program.  My most recent research has been ethnographic and archival fieldwork on an improvised sung poetry, music, and carnival tradition called maracatu de baque solto in the state of Pernambuco, Brazil, where I lived from 2008-2012.  I have also done fieldwork on diasporic immigrant communities in southwest and south Florida, and on community organizing among Puerto Rican activists in Humboldt Park, Chicago.

I am currently piloting an IAH course that I designed, Music, Society, and the State in Latin America and the Caribbean, which looks at how patterns of racial and economic inequality, migration, and transnational flows of ideas and practices throughout the region are manifested in musical expression, and different ways that community building happens through that music.  In this course, I invite students to be my co-participants in exploring how these patterns play out across historical time and into the present day, and encourage them to connect these ideas to their lived experience.

In the longer term, I’ve been working with collaborators in Brazil to put together a freely accessible digital archive of maracatu field recordings of the sung poetry contests (sambadas) and open rehearsals from the Mata Norte sugarcane zone of Pernambuco.  While these contests have gone on for about one hundred years, there is little in the way of detailed documentation on them.  Drawing on private collections of cassette recordings that go back to the 1980’s, as well as more recent digital recordings, the objective is to create a repository that can serve both the vibrant community of maracatu practitioners and enthusiasts, as well as others such as scholars or the musically curious who wish to know more about this fascinating scene and its deep history in the region.