The banjo links disparate musical and cultural traditions — from Africa to the Caribbean to the United States — and its history is deeply interwoven with the history of those places. In this podcast, host Robert Newman talks with Laurent Dubois about this history and his book, The Banjo: America’s African Instrument, published earlier this year by Harvard University Press.
Laurent Dubois is professor of history and romance studies and faculty director of the Forum for Scholars and Publics at Duke University. He is a specialist on the history and culture of the Atlantic world, with a focus on the Caribbean and particularly Haiti. His previous books include Haiti: The Aftershocks of History (2012), Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France (2010), Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (2004), and A Colony of Citizens: Revolution and Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1787–1804 (2004). Dubois worked on The Banjo: America’s African Instrument while he was a Fellow at the National Humanities Center in 2008–09. As a Fellow at the Center again this year, he is working on a biography of dancer, choreographer, and activist Katherine Dunham.