UW News

June 23, 2020

Video: Students create videos, capping new UW class on music as a form of protest

UW News

Scenes from a selection of student-created videos in a new UW course titled “Visual Anthropology of Protest Music.”


A new class that launched this spring was a relevant and timely experience for some University of Washington students. With the nation debating its response to COVID-19 and witnessing protests against racial injustice and police violence, undergraduates enrolled in “Visual Anthropology of Protest Music” examined how communities use music to share their lived experiences and confront oppression.

For their final project, each student researched and produced a music video ethnography exploring an issue important to them. A selection of student work can be seen in the videos below.

The online class, taught by UW anthropology lecturer Graham Pruss — who earned a doctorate from UW in 2019 — covered grassroots movements with a focus on folk, punk and folk-punk music from a visual anthropological perspective. Students examined audio, video and literature, as well as written and oral histories of English-language musical movements from the 1500s to today.

Classes featured guest speakers from the music industry — including members of Days N Daze, Chumbawamba, Fishbone, the Gr’ups, Tchkung, Butterflies of Death, Ludlow, Are They Brothers?, Bird Teeth, Viveka, Jim Page and more. The classes were recorded and posted to YouTube, and can be viewed here.

Students also learned the basics of songwriting by deconstructing familiar examples such as “This is America,” by Childish Gambino and “Louie, Louie” by Richard Berry. Each student created original music as well as lyrics for a popular song by Days N Daze re-recorded by the band here.

The following selection of class projects is listed by video title and the name provided by the student who created it.


‘Viktor Tsoi, Folk Hero’ – by Gleb Olegovych Sych


This video about counterculture Russian singer Viktor Tsoi adds a personal touch with the video maker’s family sharing their personal experiences of Russia at that time.


‘Riot Grrrl’ – by Noelle Hardman


This video looks at the origins of the Riot Grrrl underground feminist punk movement, and how it influences music today. (Note: This video contains mature content)


‘Ululation’ – by Alvine


This video explores the phenomenon of ululation – a long, wavering high-pitched vocal sound – made around the world that is not well-known in western culture.


‘Oppression and expression’ – by Karlee Darrell Ruffin


This video offers one man’s thoughts on Black cultural expression and music.