The Conversation Book Talk with Dr. Crystal Anderson


The Conversation is an open discussion series hosted by African American Studies Program at George Mason University. It provides a platform for authors and scholars in the DMV to discuss pressing their research in relation to issues at the intersections of race, peace, and justice. In this episode, Dr. Crystal Anderson discusses her book about K-pop Soul in Seoul while featuring Dr, Jesse Guessford. 

This book talk was headlined by Dr. Crystal Anderson in conversation with Dr. Jesse Guessford, and facilitated by Dr. LaNitra Berger. 

Crystal S. Anderson (Ph.D.) works within the fields of Transnational American Studies, Black Internationalism, and Global Asia, focusing on cultural studies, including popular culture, media studies, visual culture, audience reception, and literature. Her 2020 book, Soul in Seoul: African American Music and K-pop, explores the impact of African American popular music on contemporary Korean pop, R&B, and hip-hop and the role of global fans as the music press. Her 2013 book, Beyond the Chinese Connection: Contemporary Afro-Asian Cultural Production, uses the films of Bruce Lee to interpret cross-cultural dynamics in post-1990 novels, films, and anime. She has published articles on Afro-Asian cultural studies in several journals including African American Review, MELUS, Ethnic Studies Review, and Extrapolation as well as book chapters on masculinity in K-pop and Afro-Japanese representation in art. She also manages several digital humanities projects, including KPK: Kpop Kollective, the oldest and only public scholarship site on K-pop for academics and fans. A veteran blogger on Asian popular culture, she is also a former associate chief editor for HELLOKPOP. 

Dr. Jesse Guessford received a B.S. in Music Education from West Chester University, an M.M. in Music Composition from the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam, and a D.M.A. in Music Composition from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Guessford has studied composition with Andrew Simpson, Zack Browning, Sever Tipei, Warren Burt, Vinko Globokar, and Lucas Foss. His music has been heard throughout North America including performances during the SEAMUS Nation Conference, in Europe at the Etchings Festival in Auvilar, France, and in Africa on South African Radio. Dr. Guessford has received numerous awards including the Subito Grant for Emerging Composers awarded by the American Composer’s Forum. As an Associate Professor in the School of Music at George Mason University, Dr. Guessford has focused on the scholarship of teaching with and about technology and the music of John Cage. Dr. Guessford is also co-founding director of MMT (Music, Motion, Technology), a dance and music collective based in Northern Virginia creating new evening-length works involving dancers, musicians, and interactive audio and visual technologies. 

During the discussion, Dr. Jesse and Dr. Anderson talked about the significance of K-pop and the framing of Dr. Anderson's novel. Later, they talked about the influences that media and the development of digital music had an impact on the simultaneous shift towards the cultural industry by agencies for K-pop. Going into detail, Dr. Anderson speaks about how K-pop was called a genre when it is not because K-pop is not defined by the idol. There are a lot of vocalists that are not considered K-pop, but they are very popular in Korea and have careers. 

“African American music has moved so decidedly into the mainstream that for like a minute, American culture. The same argument today is that African American culture is the leading edge and the representation of American culture for foreign countries. Given these two things there needs to be a consideration of how foreign African American culture or African- American music culture is to Korea now. This is not talking about complexities and historical developments of African American culture which requires an unintentional dive into what it is. When it comes to music though, it has a long history in Korea but is also complicated by the relationship between how the Koreans see that music, but it is always almost attached to American culture which has a particular resonance if one is a South Korean.” 

The talk ended with her intent for her next project which is to look at people who aren't K-pop fans react to k-pop music.