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Maxwell Williams

Maxwell Williams


I am a PhD candidate in musicology with a minor field in Africana studies. Before coming to Cornell, I received a B.A. in music from the University of Southampton, England where I completed a dissertation on intersections between punctuation form and schema theory in Mozart’s symphonic minuets, and was awarded the Lyttel Prize and the Edward Wood Memorial Prize for academic performance. My current research centers on questions of aesthetics and Blackness in hip-hop and musics of the African diaspora more broadly, while engaging closely with Black studies, postcolonial studies, and gender and sexuality studies.

I have published a chapter based on my doctoral research, theorizing a contemporary hip-hop genre that I call “neo-bohemian,” in the Oxford Handbook of Hip Hop Music (2018). I have also presented, or been accepted to present, aspects of this work at the Annual Meeting of the American Musicological Society, the Annual Meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology, the Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association, the Annual Meeting of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, U.S. and Canada branches, the Annual Meeting of the Pop Conference at the Museum of Pop Culture, and the Annual Meeting of the Experience Music Project Pop Conference. My 2017 paper, “'Stand on Your Own Rude Boy!': Rethinking Hybridity and Belonging in Postcolonial London,” was awarded the Lise Waxer Student Paper Prize by the Popular Music Section of the Society for Ethnomusicology.

As recipient of the Don M. Randel Teaching Fellowship at Cornell for the 2019–2020 academic year, I am currently teaching my own, upper-level undergraduate course titled “Remixing Hip-Hop History.” This course centers rap’s underexplored aesthetic components to develop flexible and inclusive understandings of the genre. In the past, I have taught my own first-year writing seminar, titled “From ‘Talented Tenth’ to ‘Bad and Boujee’: Exploring Racial Authenticity Politics through Black Music,” and worked as a teaching assistant for courses on African music, the history of rock music, music theory, and music studies.


  • Music