Allison Youatt Shnable
Department of Sociology
How can musical traditions be used to create meaningful social bonds? In an ethnographic study of an African American church I examine the process by which the religious and musical practice of gospel singing creates social ties. Bonds are built not just in ritual moments of worship, but in “backstage” moments when vocal techniques are taught, shared understandings of religious lyrics are nurtured, and a “worshipful” subjectivity is cultivated. Gospel choir singing binds youth to the church and symbolically to the local and global black community. I use the concept of practice to bring to the fore the social contexts in which the act of singing takes place.