Keisuke Yamada

Sixth Year Graduate Student in Ethnomusicology
103, Music Building

Keisuke Yamada is a Benjamin Franklin Fellow and PhD candidate in ethnomusicology at the University of Pennsylvania. He specializes in the music of Japan. His research interests include critical organology, multispecies ethnography, environmental humanities, science and technology studies, social theory, critical theory, political economy of nonlife, object-oriented ontology, and new materialisms. Keisuke is currently working on a long-term ethnographic project involving the shamisen (Japanese three-stringed lute) in East Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, and North America, especially focusing on the transnational circulation of the materials from which the instrument is made. This dissertation research entitled “Ecologies of Instrumentality: The Politics and Practice of Sustainable Shamisen-Making” has been awarded the 2017 Society for Ethnomusicology’s 21st Century Fellowship and the University of Pennsylvania, School of Arts and Sciences’ 2018–2019 Dissertation Research Fellowship. 


Keisuke’s other major research project deals with the interrelationship and entanglement between silkworms and human cultural activities; specifically, he explores both contemporary and historical uses of silk strings in the traditional performing arts of Japan. By developing object-oriented perspectives through this multispecies work, he attempts to deconstruct the notion of “intersubjectivity,” which has long been associated with ethnomusicological discourses. 


Besides the ethnomusicological work, Keisuke also writes about the history of un/thought from a Nietzschean/Foucauldian genealogical perspective. He aims to reveal alternative ways of thinking that have been marginalized or hidden by modernist rationality. Such genealogical work enables and enhances a more in-depth and timely critical engagement with contemporary issues and problems in Japanese society, such as racism and sexism.


Keisuke is the author of Supercell Featuring Hatsune Miku (Bloomsbury Academic, 2017). His other work has appeared in Asian MusicEthnomusicology ForumEthnomusicology Review, Japanese Studies (forthcoming) and the Journal of World Popular Music. He has presented papers on topics of both Japanese traditional and popular musics at the national conferences of the Society for Ethnomusicology and the international conferences of the International Council for Traditional Music. He has served as a member of the 2018 SEM 21st Century Fellowship Committee. He received his B.M. in Jazz Studies (summa cum laude) from DePaul University, Chicago in June 2011 and his M.M. in Historical Musicology (honors) from Northwestern University, Evanston in June 2012.



Selected Publications:


Under Contract. "The Political Economy of Nonlife: Biopower, Ontosecurity, and the Shamisen Skin Trade in Japan." In The Oxford Handbook of Economic Ethnomusicology, edited by Anna Morcom and Timothy D. Taylor. New York: Oxford University Press.


Forthcoming 2019. “On the Genealogy of Kokujin: Critical Thinking About the Formation of Bankoku and Modern Japanese Perceptions of Blackness.”  Japanese Studies.

2017.  Supercell Featuring Hatsune Miku (33-1/3 Japan Series). New York: Bloomsbury.


2017. “Shamisen Skin on the Verge of Extinction: Musical Sustainability and Non-Scalability of Cultural Loss.” Ethnomusicology Forum, Vol. 26 (3): 373–396.


2017. “Rethinking Iemoto: Theorizing Individual Agency in the Tsugaru Shamisen Oyama-ryu.” Asian Music, Vol. 48 (1): 28–57.


2017. “Thoughts on Convergence and Divergence in Vocaloid Culture (and Beyond).” Ethnomusicology Review (Sounding Board).


2016. Review of Patrick W. Galbraith and Jason G. Karlin, eds. 2012. Idols and Celebrity in Japanese Media Culture. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Journal of World Popular Music, Vol. 3 (2): 239–244