Ambre Dromgoole (she/her) is a doctoral candidate in the Departments of Religious Studies and African American Studies at Yale University. She received her B.A. in musical studies and religion from Oberlin College and Conservatory and her M.A. from Yale Divinity School and Institute of Sacred Music. She has published and presented her research in a variety of venues including the Journal of Ethnomusicology, Transposition : Musique et sciences sociales, the Revealer Magazine, and Black Perspectives. She has presented work at the American Academy of Religion and the Society for American Music and lectured at Princeton University, Oberlin College and Conservatory, and the University of California, Riverside. Her research has been supported by the Yale Center for Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration, the Center for Lived Religion in the Digital Age at Saint Louis University, and the Henry Luce Foundation supported initiatives the Sacred Writes Project hosted by Northeastern University and the Crossroads Project hosted by Princeton University. Her dissertation “There’s a Heaven Somewhere’: Itinerancy, Intimacy, and Performance in the Lives of Gospel Blues Women, 1915-1983” positions the friendships, micro-interactions, and collaborations of an intimate circle of Black women gospel musicians (Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Roxie Ann Moore, Ernestine Washington, Marie Knight) as untilled sites worthy of critical Black feminist engagement, sociohistorical consideration, and nuanced religious analysis.
Crossroads Research Fellow Project
There’s a Heaven Somewhere: Itinerancy, Intimacy, and Performance in the Lives of Gospel Blues Women, 1915-1983
My project “There’s a Heaven Somewhere: Itinerancy, Intimacy, and Performance in the Lives ofGospel Blues Women, 1915-1983” asks what the combined lived experiences, sonic performances, and working-class consciousness of missionaries turned gospel blues progenitors can reveal about Black cultural hybridity, spirituality, and legibility. My work occurs in the space where Africana religious studies scholarship meets that of Black feminist inquiry. The girls and women I engage constantly find themselves negotiating the spaces where the plain-clothed culture of Black Christian respectability encounters the space of sexual and musical social risk reflected in blues culture and the economy of sex. The former feared being marked as prostitutes, but the latter knew there was no evading those marks in a racist, sexist society; the musicians I track bandy in the borders between. As a project which focuses on the interstice of sound and memory, I am creating a digital sound archive to works as its companion. This sound archive is curated in such a way as to place recorded performances from twentieth century gospel blues women in conversation with textual archival sources and documentary footage. Ultimately, this will be a multimedia representation of the friendships and sonic interactions that occurred between the women I discuss and the musical innovations that emerged from their musical excavations within and without ecclesial spaces. I will also use digital mapping tools to illustrate the stylistic shifts that emerged from these women’s constant itinerancy. In creating this sound archive, I hope to provide a visual presentation of the cultural world and networks that existed amongst twentieth century Black women Sanctified musicians, which can be utilized broadly in classrooms settings and cultural institutions.