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Michael Iyanaga

Associate Professor of Music and Latin American Studies

Office: Ewell 261
Phone: (757) 221-1044
Email: [[miyanaga]]


Michael Iyanaga, Associate Professor of Music and Latin American Studies; PhD in Ethnomusicology from the University of California, Los Angeles; Professor Iyanaga's research focuses on Afro-Diasporic music and religion in Latin America and the Caribbean (esp. Brazil); He teaches courses related to music, ethnomusicology, and Latin America.


B.M. in Guitar and Lute Performance, University of California, Irvine
M.A. and Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology, University of California, Los Angeles


Michael Iyanaga specializes in the music of Latin America, with a concentration on religion in Brazil and the African Diaspora, as well as an interest in musico-devotional practices of the broader Atlantic world since the 15th century. His work blends historical and ethnographic methods in the analysis of cultural practices, musical sounds, and historical transformations. In late 2017, Iyanaga finished co-editing a book on the geopolitics of anthropology in Brazil: Desafios e particularidades da produção antropológica no Norte e Nordeste do Brasil (Recife: Editora da UFPE) [Trans.: Challenges and Particularities of the Anthropological Production of North and Northeastern Brazil].

Currently, Iyanaga is working on two book projects. The first, an ethnographic study of the musical practices of residential patron saint festivities in northeastern Brazil, is entitled “’Me dê licença pra eu sambar’: Alegria, fé e liturgia nas devoções domiciliares do Recôncavo Baiano” [Trans.: “Give me permission to samba”: Happiness, faith, and liturgy in domestic devotions of the Bahian Recôncavo]. The second project, “Genealogies of Song: Saints, Family Devotions, and Rethinking the African Diaspora in Brazil,” is a meditation on historicity that examines the confluences of historical processes as they play out in a single family’s devotion to a Catholic saint in Bahia, Brazil.

Iyanaga has, moreover, published award winning articles and essays in English and Portuguese, dealing not only with music and religious practices in Brazil but also with historical and ethnographic methodologies, and intellectual history in ethnomusicology, anthropology, and history. Iyanaga also specializes in the translation of academic texts from Portuguese to English (also English to Portuguese). His translations appear in a number of journals as well as in several edited volumes. He currently has a number of large-scale translation projects of important Brazilian authors/scholars.

Selected Publications

2018    “A Reflexive Response to J. Lorand Matory’s Retrospective on the Critical Reception of Black Atlantic Religion.Journal of Africana Religions (Special issue roundtable) 6(1): 114-122.

2015    “Why Saints Love Samba: A Historical Perspective on Black Agency and the Rearticulation of Catholicism in Bahia, Brazil.” BMRJ 35(1): 119-147.

*Received the 2016 Jaap Kunst Prize from the Society for Ethnomusicology
*Received the 2016 Irving Lowens Article Award from the Society for American Music

2015    “On Flogging the Dead Horse, Again: Historicity, Genealogy, and Objectivity in Richard Waterman’s Approach to Music.” Ethnomusicology 59(2): 173-201.

*Received Honorable Mention for the 2016 Bruno Nettl Prize from the Society for Ethnomusicology

2014    “A musicalidade da ciranda,” in Dossiê do Inventário Nacional de Referências Culturais da Ciranda, edited by Ester Monteiro de Souza, 81-108. Recife: Fundação do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico de Pernambuco.

2010    “O samba de caruru da Bahia: Tradição pouco conhecida.” Ictus 11(2): 120-150.


Michael Iyanaga first arrived at William and Mary as a Mellon Faculty Fellow in Latin American Studies (2014-2016), after which he received a joint appointment in Music and Latin American Studies (2017-). Prior to his current position, Iyanaga taught at UCLA (Department of Ethnomusicology) as well as at a number of universities in Brazil: Universidade Federal do Recôncavo da Bahia (Center for Culture, Languages, and Applied Technologies), Universidade Federal da Paraíba (Graduate Program in Music), and Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (Graduate Program in Anthropology). He also worked in Brazil’s public sector, from 2013 to 2014, as an ethnographer and ethnomusicologist for government-sponsored intangible cultural heritage projects.

At William and Mary, Iyanaga teaches courses in the Department of Music as well as in Latin American Studies. His teaching interests include expressive culture and history in Latin America, ranging from the enslavement of Africans in the Atlantic World and the Mexica and Inka Civilizations to 20th- and 21st-century nationalisms, mass mediated cultural forms, and intellectual history. In addition to his strictly academic courses, Iyanaga founded, in 2015, the W&M Brazilian Music ensemble. The ensemble––made up of students who play a number of Brazilian chordal and percussion instruments––performs a variety of traditional musical styles, from southeastern genres such as samba and choro to northeastern genres such as forró and samba-de-roda.

Some of Michael Iyanaga’s more recent courses are:

  • MUS E99 / LAS 290 – Brazilian Music Ensemble
  • MUS / LAS 150 – Music and Noise in Latin America
  • MUS / LAS 100 – Latin American Music and Ritual since 1490
  • MUS / ANTH 241 – Worlds of Music
  • LAS 350 – Latin American Culture, Politics, and Society
  • LAS 450 – The Politics of Expressive Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean