Dr Bonnie B. McConnell

PhD, University of Washington; MA, University of Washington; BA Oberlin College, BM Oberlin College
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
T: (02) 61257015

Research interests

Bonnie's primary research interests center on intersections between musical performance practice, gender, and wellbeing. Additional areas of research include: 

Music of Africa and the African diaspora

Music and climate change

Political economy of performance

Performance-based approaches to ethnographic research 

Music and Islam

Music and emotion

Indigenous Australian music



Bonnie McConnell is Lecturer in Ethnomusicology and HDR Convenor at the ANU School of Music. She received her PhD from the University of Washington in 2015. Her research examines music in relation to issues of identity, social change, and wellbeing in West Africa and Australia. Bonnie’s work appears in the journals Ethnomusicology, Africa Today, Social Science & Medicine, Popular Music and Society, and Voices, among other publications. Her research has been supported by fellowships from the Fulbright-Hays Program, the American Association of University Women, and the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council. Bon­nie has per­for­mance expe­ri­ence in the areas of Senegam­bian Mandinka music, the Dagarti gyil xylo­phone from Ghana, Wag­ogo music from Tan­za­nia, and Irish traditional music. She has also per­formed as key­boardist with a Gam­bian dance band ded­i­cated to health edu­ca­tion through per­for­mance. 

Researcher's projects

Music, Health, and Power: Singing the Unsayable in the Gambia

My current book project is an investigation of music, health, and power in the Gambia through the lens of Muslim women's performances. It examines the way women have adapted indigenous musical healing practices in order to address contemporary public health challenges. In the face of political repression and economic austerity, women use music to address sensitive health topics, challenge gender inequality, and promote collective action. Focusing on the music of kanyeleng fertility societies as well as popular dance music, the book demonstrates that female performers navigate complex gendered expectations and religious restrictions to access new forms of power and influence in contemporary Gambia. (Funded by the Fulbright-Hays Program and the American Association of University Women) 

Developing a Community Singing-Based Intervention for Perinatal Mental Health in The Gambia 

This is an international partnership building project exploring how music can be used to support maternal mental health in The Gambia. I am a co-Investigator on the project which is led by Lauren Stewart, Goldsmiths, University of London (Funded by UK Global Public Health Partnership Award, AHRC/MRC)

Senegambian and Chinese Performers and the Making of Australian Multicultural Heritage

This project examines the way Australians of African and Asian descent have engaged in heritage making through music in the context of contested notions of Australian multiculturalism. Heritage research has tended to focus on peripheral or minority groups in isolation, or in relation to a central dominant group. This research challenges this paradigm by considering relationships between minority groups, and comparing the social and historical conditions that have produced particular understandings of heritage. (Funded by an Asia Pacific Innovation Program Research Development Award)

Music, Race, and Representation in Contemporary Australia

This project interrogates the way African Australian musicians challenge bigotry by using performance to create social spaces for self-representation and intercultural communication. Contrasting with scholarly and media accounts that present cultural difference as an obstacle, this project draws attention to social sites in which difference is celebrated as a resource for Australia’s multicultural future. (Funded by the Freilich Foundation)

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Updated:  26 May 2019 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers