Postdoctoral Fellow, McGill University
Leila Qashu is a scholar and musician who has been working with the Arsi Oromo in Ethiopia and conducting fieldwork since 2002, independently and in conjunction with a French research team and the UNESCO – Norway funds-in-trust project on Ethiopian instruments, music and dance (2005-2009). She completed her PhD in ethnomusicology in 2016 at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada. In her PhD research, for which she held a Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholarship (2010-14) and was a member of the SSHRC – MCRI project, Advancing Interdisciplinary Research in Singing, she focused on ateetee, an indigenous Arsi women’s sung dispute resolution ritual, and how Arsi women use this process to protect, promote, and affirm their rights. Her PhD received the 2017 CAGS/ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award.
Her current research project, which is financed by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Development grant, focuses on marriage by abduction and other challenges facing young Arsi women, and their strategies – including the use of expressive arts – for questioning, resisting and changing cultural practices. It is rooted in the overarching framework of improvisational, practice-based multimedia research methodologies. The main objective is to use participatory, collaborative and improvisational audio and video methodologies in workshops and feedback discussions with members of an under-represented younger generation of Oromo women (approximately 14-18 years of age) in order to examine the challenges that young Arsi women face and their hopes for the future. The methodology for this project is participatory, to be done in collaboration with groups of girls and community members, and it is also foundationally improvisational, as every step of the research design is improvised together: created, interpreted and built upon by the youth participants/co-producers of the research.