Queen's University

Dr. Margaret Walker

Associate Professor, Cultural Studies Program, Dan School of Drama and Music
LinkedIn profile for Dr. Margaret Walker


I joined Queen's Music in 2006 as a graduate of the University of Toronto (Musicology/Ethnomusicology) and the Royal Conservatory of Music Professional School (Piano Performance and Pedagogy). My teaching and research cross interdisciplinary boundaries, comprising ethnomusicology, historical musicology, historiography, music transmission and education, and dance studies. I studied the North Indian classical dance called kathak with teachers in both India and Canada, and have visited India many times to do fieldwork. I have also done ‘fieldwork’ as ‘homework,’ learning the uniquely Canadian stories of Ontario kathak dancer-choreographers.

My recent monograph, India’s Kathak Dance in Historical Perspective (SOAS Series in Musicology, Ashgate, 2014), examines and deconstructs the accepted history of kathak dance and proposes an alternate reading. I have presented this work at a wide range of international scholarly conferences, and I have book chapters on various cultural, historical, and choreographic aspects of kathak dance in the collections Dance Matters: A Reader on South Asian Dance (Routledge, 2010), Music, Dance, and the Art of Seduction (Eburon Academic Press, 2013), The Oxford Handbook of Music Revivals (Oxford University Press, 2014), and Traditional Musics in Canada: Contemporary Expressions and Cultural Resonances (forthcoming). My articles on topics ranging from Indian folk traditions to music cognition can be found in The Journal of the Indian Musicological Society, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, MUSICultures, CRME Bulletin and Canadian Music Educators’ Journal, and I have had reviews published in Dance Research Journal, MUSICultures, South Asia Research, The British Forum for Ethnomusicology and University of Toronto Quarterly.

Between 2011 and 2015, I was a member of the “Musical Transitions to European Colonialism in the Eastern Indian Ocean” research team and have two book chapters forthcoming from that project. In 2016, I will participate in a Visitorship to King’s College University of London as part of the Balzan Research in Musicology Project “Towards a Global History of Music,” working in the British Library and spending time at the BISC as a Scholar in Residence. I am looking forward to working with my colleague Gordon E. Smith on a new collaborative project called “Kingston’s Musical Communities,” which will explore the multiple layers of musical activities in the city of Kingston.

[Photo credits: Lars Hagberg, Queen's Communications, and Lorne Finley]

Most Recent Project

India's Kathak Dance in Historical Perspective

This monograph examines and deconstructs the accepted history of the North Indian classical dance form, kathak and proposes an alternate reading. Through an analysis both broad and deep of primary and secondary sources, ethnography, iconography and current performance practice, this enquiry undertakes a critical approach to the history of kathak dance and presents new data about hereditary performing artists, gendered contexts and practices, and postcolonial cultural reclamation. The account that emerges places kathak and the Kathaks firmly into the living context of North Indian performing arts.

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Other Projects

  • The Oxford Handbook of Music Revivals

    This article investigates the phenomenon of cultural revival in a non-Western context using kathak, the classical dance of North India, as a case study. Although the music and dance revival that accompanied Indian independence from Britain in 1947 shares many characteristics with other revivals such as links with nationalism, middle-class reclamation, classicization, and revised history, there are also significant themes including gender topics, class issues, and shifts in centers of power that seem closely connected to the process of postcolonial nation building.

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  • Music, Dance and the Art of Seduction

    Music, Dance and the Art of Seduction examines a broad range of such practices: from the dancing and singing of South Indian devadasis (courtesans) to the provocative dialogues exchanged between Chinese rural villagers; from the interplay of attraction and repulsion in Mozart’s operas to the “bump and grind” of dancers in nightclubs today. My chapter is entitled: Wounded with the Arrow of Her Eyelashes: Seduction and Sensuality in North Indian dance

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