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Matthew Pessar Joseph

Postdoctoral Research Assistant in Belonging, Equity, and Inclusion



B.A. Yale University, MPhil Columbia University, Ph.D. Columbia University

Current Courses

Race in American Popular Music, Spring 2023, Spring 2024

First Year Seminar: The City, Fall 2023

Recent Publications

“‘A Totally Integrated Club Scene’: ‘New York, New Music’ at the Museum of the City of New York.” The Brooklyn Rail (October 2021)

“A Sound as International as the City Itself: A Review of Benjamin Lapidus’ New York and the International Sound of Latin Music, 1940-1990.” Gotham: A Blog for Scholars of New York City History (2021)

Entry on New York City hip hop. St. James Encyclopedia of Hip Hop Culture (2018)

“‘Lords of Sounds:’ The Mutual Constitution of Slave Music by Masters and Slaves in the Antebellum South.” The Yale Historical Review (2011)

Awards and Accolades

Winner of the Urban History Association’s Michael Katz Award for Best Dissertation in Urban
History, 2023

Finalist for the Herbert G. Gutman Prize for Outstanding Dissertation in U.S. Labor and
Working-Class History, the Labor and Working-Class History Association, 2023

Winner of the Teaching Pillar Award in Global and Community Engagement, Purdue University’s John Martinson Honors College, 2023

INcommon Grant for “Think Local” Project: Overlooked African American History in Lafayette
and Indianapolis,” NEH and Indiana Humanities, 2023

Smithsonian Institution Predoctoral Fellowship, Smithsonian Institute, 2021-2022

Alvin H. Johnson 50 Dissertation Fellowship, American Musicological Society, 2020-2021

Teaching Scholars Award, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Columbia University, 2020

Richard Hofstadter Fellow, Columbia University History Department, 2014-2019

Adrienne Fried Block Fellowship, Society of American Music, 2019

Center for Popular Music Studies Fellowship, Case Western Reserve University and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library & Archives, 2018

Summer Research Grant, Columbia University’s Center for American Studies, 2017

Ivy Plus Exchange Scholar, Ivy Plus Exchange Program, 2016

Brebner Travel Fund, Columbia University History Department, 2015, 2016

Summer Funding Award, Columbia University History Department, 2015


Matthew Pessar Joseph is a twentieth-century American racial, urban, cultural historian, who received his Ph.D. at Columbia University in October 2022. His research moves beyond the traditional boundaries of the United States and explores Black Atlantic music emanating from the Spanish-speaking Caribbean and the greater Gulf Coast region. Matt’s dissertation, Syncopating Segregation: Musical Cross-Pollination in Post-World War II New York City, recently won the Urban History Association’s Michael Katz Award for Best Dissertation in Urban History and was a finalist for the Labor and Working-Class History Association’s Herbert G. Gutman Prize for Outstanding Dissertation. In it, he argues that by participating in diverse musical scenes, African American, Latinx, queer, and white residents of post-World War II New York City were able to transcend boundaries of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation at a time when scholars argue that Gotham became increasingly segregated.

Matt has been awarded write-up fellowships from the Smithsonian Institution and the American Musicological Society and grants from Columbia University, Case Western Reserve University, and the Society of American Music. Matt is committed to a creative, inclusive pedagogy, of reaching students where they are; his knowledge of music in Indiana and learning opportunities that the Greater Lafayette Area offers are astounding, and he offers some very exciting courses on urban history and popular music.

He has helped develop Purdue’s first race- and ethnicity-based course cluster; at least one course will be offered under it each year as part of the Honors College’s core curriculum. Through a National Endowment for the Humanities and Indiana Humanities grant, Matt has partnered with African American community leaders in Indianapolis and Lafayette to take diverse high school, community college, and university students on free museum visits and walking tours. To bridge Humanities and STEM divides on campus, he helped to organize and co-moderated an event with hip-hop legend Grandmaster Flash for students and community members. In doing so, he has helped expand the unit’s programmatic DEIB initiatives.

Contact Info

149 Wood

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