Vanessa Agnew does research on Enlightenment music discourse, postcolonial theory, historical reenactment, and the history of science. Her teaching includes courses on the history of science [view class blog], German opera and writings about music, travel writing, and eighteenth-century racial discourse. Vanessa has held research fellowships at the Musikwissenschaftliches Seminar, Humboldt-Universität and the Forschungszentrum Europäische Aufklärung, the Centre for Cross-Cultural Research and the Humanities Research Centre at the Australian National University, the National Maritime Museum, and the Graduiertenkolleg 'Reiseliteratur und Kulturanthropologie' at the Universität Paderborn.
Vanessa was a participant consultant in the BBC2/History Channel series The Ship, which retraced Cook's 1768 voyage to the Pacific aboard a tall ship. She is a coeditor of two book series—Reenactment History published by Palgrave Macmillan and Music in Society and Culture published by Boydell and Brewer. Her Settler and Creole Reenactment (with Jonathan Lamb) appeared with Palgrave Macmillan in 2008. Link to Review The volume deals with historical reenactments undertaken by settlers and creoles, people who belong partly to the land in which they now live, and partly to a place that is only remembered as home. The volume shows how historical reenactments negotiate this bifurcated relation to the past by helping to forge an imagined community with people whose claims on the land are immemorial. At the same time, the volume examines the kinds of shifts and interruptions in historical perspective that are necessary to make this a credible history of change and memory. Does history become more like a fiction? And is fiction a useful and necessary addition to history, or not? For more about the volume, go to: www.amazon.com/Settler-Creole-Re-Enactment-Vanessa-Agnew/dp/0230576060
Vanessa's award-winning monograph, Enlightenment Orpheus: The Power of Music in Other Worlds (Oxford University Press, 2008), is a study of Anglo-German debates about the power of music (ca.1760-1810). Focusing on Charles Burney's German journey, the book traces the central role of travel and cross-cultural encounters in transforming musical thought. For more about the book, click here.
Her current book project, Overland to Lobito Bay: The 1925 Scientific Expedition of Dorothea Bleek and Mary Pocock (with Tony Dold), deals with a collecting expedition through Southern Africa in the 1920s. The book project draws on Bleek’s and Pocock’s unpublished journals, photographs, and watercolors; it examines their pioneering contributions to twentieth-century San ethnology and botany, and sets out the Anglo-German intellectual and colonial contexts for their scientific work.
- "History's Pure Serene: On Reenacting Cook's First Voyage," in Staging the Past: Themed Environments in Transcultural Perspectives, ed. Judith Schlehe, Michiko Uike, Carolyn Oesterle, and Wolfgang Hochbruck (Bielefeld: Transkript, 2010), 205–218. Link to Article
- "Songs from the Edge of the World," Enlightenment World, ed. Alexander Cook, Ned Curtoys, and Shino Konishi (London: Pickering and Chatto, forthcoming)
- Settler and Creole Reenactment, ed. Vanessa Agnew and Jonathan Lamb (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2009)
- Enlightenment Orpheus. The Power of Music in Other Worlds. New York: Oxford University Press (2008). Winner of the Lewis Lockwood Award, 2009 and the Kenshur Book Prize for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 2009
American Historical Review, German Quarterly, Journal of Pacific History Review, H-Net Review, Eighteenth-Century Music
- "History's Affective Turn: Historical Reenactment and Its Work in the Present," Rethinking History 11, no. 3 (2007): 299-312. Link to Article
- "Listening to Others: Eighteenth-Century Encounters in Polynesia and Their Reception in German Musical Thought," Eighteenth-Century Studies 41, no. 2 (2008): 165-188. Link to Article
- "The Colonialist Beginnings of Comparative Musicology." Germany's Colonial Pasts: An Anthology in Memory of Susanne Zantop, ed. Eric Ames, Marcia Klotz, and Lora Wildenthal (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005). Link to Article
- "Introduction: What is Reenactment?" Criticism Vol. 46, No. 3 (Summer 2004): 327-39. Special issue on 'Extreme and Sentimental History,' co-ed. Vanessa Agnew and Jonathan Lamb. Link to Article
- "Pacific Island Encounters and the German Invention of Race," in Islands: Histories and Representations, ed. Rod Edmond and Vanessa Smith (London and New York: Routledge, 2003), 81-94. Link to Review
- "What Can Reenactment Tell Us About the Past?" BBCi History, September 2002. Link to Program Archive