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Ecologies of Song

In this essay, doctoral candidate Thea Ballard takes up the mission of the Forum to bring programs at Duke into conversation with programs in the surrounding community, exploring the Nasher’s exhibit, “Spirit in the Land,” and Black Belt Eagle Scout’s Spring 2023 performance at the Pinhook in downtown Durham.

I would say to other PhD students who hold this fellowship: Maximize the opportunity! Be creative and think big. Make it into something that pushes your boundaries as a scholar and as a contributor to the public conversation. Because once you go into the academic world and become a professor, you might not have this kind of safe training space again, where you have the room to do what you want to do.

Phrases and sentences and how they work, how children acquire knowledge of linguistic structures, the nature of linguistic variation, and the core that languages share—these are some of the themes that fascinate Abbas Benmamoun as he studies classical and spoken varieties of Arabic and compares them to other languages.