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Reuben Brown

Postdoctoral Fellow (Ethnomusicology)
Indigenous Australian song and dance
aboriginal ceremony (western arnhem land)
repatriation of cultural heritage
1948 american-australian expedition to arnhem land
bininj gunwok
aboriginal song
Reuben Brown's Profile Picture

Reuben Brown

Fine Arts And Music
Primary Interest
Musicology And Ethnomusicology
Reuben Brown's Profile Picture

Reuben Brown


Dr Reuben Brown (PhD Ethnomusicology, University of Sydney) is Postdoctoral Fellow at the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, and a Research Affiliate with the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language.

Reuben has collaborated with Indigenous Australian ceremony leaders and artists as well as anthropologists, linguists, historians and musicologists to document living song traditions such as kun-borrk/manyardi, wangga, thabi and junba from the north of Australia, and to support the vitality and revitalisation of Indigenous Australian song more broadly.

Reuben's research interests include:

- Performance ethnography as a way of understanding intercultural encounter
- Repatriation studies and the re-use of archival recordings in performance and the intergenerational transmission of Indigenous knowledge
- The role of performance as a site for social and political change
- The relationship between language and song
- The relationship between musical differentiation and clan identities in Arnhem Land
- Comparative musical analysis of Indigenous Australian song
- The role of digital environments to support Indigenous ways of holding and practicing their performance traditions

For his PhD thesis titled: ‘Following footsteps: the kun-borrk/manyardi song tradition and its role in western Arnhem Land society’, Reuben collaborated with ceremony leaders from the communities of Gunbalanya and Warruwi in the Northern Territory to return archival recordings from the 1948 American Australian Expedition to Arnhem Land, and document 15 contemporary song repertories from the Top End region, analysing their significance as part of funeral and reburial ceremonies, exchange ceremonies, cultural festivals, and informal events involving visitors.

Reuben’s research for the ARC project ‘Hearing Histories of the Western Pilbara’ also involves playing back digital collections of archival recordings of thabi songs to custodians living in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, and documenting local Indigenous understandings of these songs in their own languages and social and historical context.

Reuben lectures on Indigenous Australian song with Wilin Centre colleague Tiriki Onus, and collaborates with linguists and musicologists affiliated with the Centre of Excellence in the Dynamics of Language on research into western Arnhem Land language and song. Reuben continues to learn Kunwinjku and Mawng, and has been invited to perform kun-borrk/manyardi, wangga and junba with singers from western Arnhem Land as part of Mamurrng (exchange ceremonies) in the Top End, and in conference settings where he has co-presented with collaborators on aspects of Indigenous Australian song.

Scholarly Works

Displaying the 9 most recent scholarly works by Reuben Brown.


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Honours, Awards and Fellowships


William McIlrath Memorial Scholarship

The University of Sydney


ARC DP1096897 Postgraduate scholarship

The University of Sydney





Postdoctoral Fellow (Ethnomusicology)

Fine Arts And Music

Member, Ictm Study Group On Music And Dance Of Oceania

International Council for Traditional Music


PhD (ethnomusicology)

University of Sydney


University of Melbourne


University of Melbourne

Diploma of Modern Languages (German)

University of Melbourne