Jennifer Fraser


  • Professor of Ethnomusicology and Anthropology


  • BA, University of Sydney, 1996
  • MA in ethnomusicology, Brown University, 1998
  • PhD in musicology, University of Illinois, 2007


Jennifer Fraser is a teacher-scholar, a locution that carries great significance for the way she thinks about teaching, scholarship, and the synergies between them. At Oberlin, she has taught a wide range of courses, including academic classes, performance, and those that are hybrid. Wherever possible, she centers experiential learning, whether that includes using archival materials, doing ethnography, or mounting an instrument exhibit. See, for example, the website she built with students: Sounding Decolonial Futures: Decentering Ethnomusicology’s Colonialist Legacies.

Her ethnographic research has historically focused on the music of the Minangkabau people in West Sumatra, Indonesia, in relation to issues of ethnicity, gender, Islam, and natural disasters. In recent years, however, her projects have taken her in radically different directions and involve the digital humanities, public ethnomusicology, community engagement, and collaborative scholarship. See, for example, the community music program Bang on a Gong.

Her latest project is a digital humanities site, Song in the Sumatran Highlands. The site is an interactive, interpretative, multimedia digital ethnography and archive that documents and celebrates saluang, a vocal genre from the highlands of West Sumatra, Indonesia.

  • National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend 2020 
  • Research Status, Oberlin College, AY2020–21
  • Outstanding Community-based Learning Practitioner Award, Bonner Center for Service and Learning, Oberlin College, 2018. 
  • Research Status, Oberlin College, AY2010–11.
  • Teaching Excellence Award 2009–10. Oberlin College. 
  • International Dissertation Research Fellowship, Social Science Research Council (SSRC). 2003–2004.

  • with Gabriela Linares (OC December 20), “Reimagining the Representation of Ethnographic Knowledge: The Philosophy and Methodology of a Digital Humanities Project” Open Access Musicology. Accepted for publication in Vol 2, expected 2022. 
  • with Saiful Hadi, Gabriela Linares, Megan Mitchell, et. al. 2021. Song in the Sumatran Highlands.
  • with Saiful Hadi. “Singing ‘Naked’ Verses: Interactive Intimacies and Islamic Moralities in Saluang Performances in West Sumatra.” Sounding Out the State of Indonesian Music, Edited by Christopher J. Miller and Andy McGraw. Expected 2022. 
  • with Karla Hubbard. 2021. “Natural” Disasters, Cultural Framings, and Resilience in Indonesia: Transdisciplinary Engagements in an Immersion Program. ASIANetwork Exchange: A Journal for Asian Studies in the Liberal Arts, 27(2), pp.30–42. DOI:
  • “The Sustainability and Evolution of Talempong: Pluralism in Minangkabau Gong Practices” Performing Indonesia, ed. by Sumarsam and Andy McGraw. Smithsonian Institution. Freer Occasional Paper Series, New Series, vol. 5, 2016.
  • Gongs and Pop Songs: Sounding Minangkabau in Indonesia. Research in International Studies. Southeast Asia Series, No. 127. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press. 2015. 
  • “Minangkabau/ West Sumatra, Indonesia” in The Ethnomusicologists’ Cookbook, Volume II : Complete Meals from Around the World, edited by Sean Williams, Taylor & Francis Group, 47-52, 2015.
  • “The Art of Grieving: West Sumatra’s Worst Earthquake in Music Videos.” Ethnomusicology Forum 22(2):129-159. 2013.
  • “Pop Song as Custom: Weddings, Entrepreneurs, and Ethnicity in West Sumatra.” Ethnomusicology 55(2):200-228. 2011.

Fall 2024

Music as Social Life — MUSY 103
Doing Musical Ethnography — MUSY 201
Javanese Gamelan — APST 748

Spring 2025

Introduction to Ethnomusicology — MUSY 100
Ethnomusicology as Activism — MUSY 303
Javanese Gamelan — APST 748


Karla Hubbard and Jennifer Fraser co-author article on experiential learning trip to Indonesia

April 23, 2021

Professor of Geology Karla Hubbard and Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology and Anthropology Jennifer Fraser co-authored an article about a 2018 winter term trip that was supported by the Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment and Oberlin Shansi. The article, “'Natural'” Disasters, Cultural Framings, and Resilience in Indonesia: Transdisciplinary Engagements in an Immersion Program" is published in ASIANetwork Exchange: A Journal for Asian Studies in the Liberal Arts

Jennifer Fraser presents at Society for Ethnomusicology conference

November 12, 2020

On October 23, 2020, Jennifer Fraser presented a paper titled “Teaching as Scholarship or, How My Students Have Made Me a Better Ethnomusicologist,” as part of a panel, “Ethnomusicology as a Liberal Art: Pedagogy, Disciplinarity, and Institutionalization at the Educational Crossroads” at the annual Society for Ethnomusicology conference. Fellow panelists included Jeffers Engelhardt at Amherst College, Morgan Luker at Reed College, and Whitney Slaten at Bard College. Several Oberlin alumni participated as part of the audience, including Alicia Lola Jones, faculty at Indiana University and Christian James, graduate student, at Indiana University. 

Jennifer Fraser Presents Paper

July 25, 2019

Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology and Anthropology Jennifer Fraser presented the paper “Building Community through Music: Working at the Interface Between Applied Ethnomusicology, Community Music, and Community-Engaged Learning Pedagogy” at the 45th International Council for Traditional Music World Conference held July 11-17, 2019, at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand.

Jennifer Fraser Presents at Conference

November 19, 2018

Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology and Anthropology Jennifer Fraser presented the paper “Dangers of Fieldwork & Dangers of Sex Work: Erotics in/of/and Ethnomusicology” as part of an organized panel called “Access, Risk, Safety, and Gender in Ethnomusicological Fieldwork: Reflections, Analysis, and Directions in the Age of #MeToo” at the 63rd annual Society for Ethnomusicology conference in Albuquerque, NM. Fraser's paper was about her #MeToo moments of sexual abuse and harassment part of ethnomusicological research in Indonesia during the past 24 years and the ways it shaped her professional career. 

Bautista, Fraser, and Kerchner Present at Conference

October 23, 2018

Three faculty members presented "Transformative Imaginations: Decarceration and Liberatory Futures" at the October 2018 Imagining America National Conference in Chicago. The faculty were: Jody Kerchner, professor of music education, director in the division of pedagogy, advocacy, and community engagement, and community-based learning/research faculty fellow; Jennifer Fraser, associate professor of ethnomusicology and anthropology; Adrian Bautista, comparative american studies and senior associate dean for strategic initiatives.

Jennifer Fraser Gives Talk at Indonesian University

August 5, 2016

Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology and Anthropology Jennifer Fraser will deliver the talk “Playing with Men: Female Singers, Porno Lyrics, and the Male Gaze in a Sumatran Vocal Genre” on Wednesday, August 10, at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Fraser has been conducting research in Sumatra, Indonesia, for approximately five weeks.

More information about her talk can be found on the Gadja Mada University website.

Jennifer Fraser Publishes Book

July 1, 2015

Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology and Anthropology Jennifer Fraser's book "Gongs & Pop Songs: Sounding Minangkabau in Indonesia" has been published by Ohio University Press. In the book, Fraser explores a little-known gong tradition from Sumatra called talempong, long associated with people who identify themselves as Minangkabau.

More information can be found on the Ohio University Press website.