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USC Annenberg Professor Josh Kun awarded prestigious Berlin Prize

The onetime ‘genius grant’ honoree will study the effect of immigration on music

Josh Kun
Josh Kun is a recipient of a 2017 Berlin Prize. (Photo/Courtesy of John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

Professor Josh Kun of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism has been named a recipient of the Berlin Prize, a semester-long fellowship in Berlin awarded annually to top-tier scholars, writers, composers and artists from the United States.

Kun is among 22 recipients announced May 10 by the American Academy in Berlin who represent “the highest standards of excellence in their fields,” the academy said. The award grants Kun a stipend, partial board and accommodations while working in Berlin for the 2018 spring semester.

Josh Kun’s exceptional scholarship has once again received the attention it deserves.

Michael Quick

“Josh Kun’s exceptional scholarship has once again received the attention it deserves — this time, with the coveted Berlin Prize,” said Provost Michael Quick. “We know that he will use his time in Germany to produce unique work that will educate all of us. He has chosen a fascinating topic — the effects of immigration on music — which will resonate around the world. We congratulate Professor Kun and look forward to the results of his work.”

Cultural connections

Kun’s work centers on the politics of cultural connection, using music as a way to understand society, culture, social change, place-making and community building. He’s best known for his public projects that rethink the historical perspective of Los Angeles, Southern California and the U.S.-Mexico border. Songs in the Key of Los Angeles, an example of a recent work, uncovered archived sheet music at the Los Angeles Public Library and brought it to life through performances, new recordings and new writings. His next collaboration, with Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, is a series of public events that delves into the Latin-American music and the shaping of Los Angeles.

“I am thrilled about this new opportunity,” Kun said of the Berlin Prize. “I look forward to seeing how my work on music and migration, which has been mostly focused on the U.S. Southwest, changes shape and scope in the European context, especially during this crucial global moment of refugee and migrant crisis.”

Kun, who was granted a Macarthur Foundation “genius grant” fellowship in September 2016, leads the Norman Lear Center’s Popular Music Project. He holds a joint appointment at USC Annenberg and the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences’ Department of American Studies and Ethnicity.

“The announcement of this prestigious award reinforces the value Professor Kun’s work brings to the international community, and there is no more relevant subject to tackle today than immigration,” USC Annenberg Dean Ernest J. Wilson III said. “Josh pushes the limits of conventional scholarship by revealing unexplored connections between music and culture, and this exciting new opportunity will unearth answers to questions we hadn’t even thought to ask.”

‘Brilliant work’

Sarah Banet-Weiser, professor and director of the USC Annenberg School of Communication, said: “Through this fellowship, Professor Kun will both continue and expand his brilliant work on the intersections of borders, migrants, immigrants and pop culture — especially music.

“During a historical moment in global culture, when the issues of crossing borders, migrants, politics and culture have never been more urgent, this project is critical and essential and Josh is the one to do it.”

Fellows are encouraged to work with local “individuals and institutions in the academy’s well-established network, forging rich connections and lasting transatlantic relationships,” the academy said. They also engage audiences in lectures, performances and readings throughout Berlin and Germany.

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USC Annenberg Professor Josh Kun awarded prestigious Berlin Prize

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