Brian Sengdala


(he/they pronouns)

I am a Ph.D. student in the Department of Performing and Media Arts at Cornell University researching Cambodian and Asian American studies, race, performance, sound, music, memory, refugeehood, and disability. I’m thinking about performance as memory work and study how second-generation Cambodian and Asian Americans use performance as critical fabulations in order to understand their own place in the world. Within this framework of memory, my sites of study range from performances in sounds, literature, theatre, minefields, and food to name a few.

I’m passionate about public work. I have presented exhibitions of archives, given concert lectures, and written program notes for events around the New York metropolitan area. My current project works on a model of archiving which decenters the traditional notion of a central hub and re-centers intergenerational conversation and healing in the home of refugees. My paper “Listening as Cambodian American Memory Work,” which introduces this project, won the 2021 Marvin Carlson Award for best student essay in theatre or performance and will be published in American Music. Following this commitment to public work, I was hired by the Orange County (CA) Department of Education onto a team of researchers to help develop a California model curriculum for Vietnamese, Hmong, and Cambodian American histories and experiences.

As of Summer 2021, I serve on the committee for Project Spectrum whose mission is to both shift the large-scale culture of North American music academia toward equity by confronting racism, sexism, ableism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, settler-colonialism, and other forms of discrimination and injustice and to bolster community, share resources, and hold space for those academics who are marginalized by the academy.

With Nikita Sukmono (MA Asian Studies), I was the co-organizer for the 2022 SEAP Graduate Conference "(Re)Constructing Southeast Asian" where I introduced a dedicated panel for undergraduate research and also centered the work of performance. With Rejoice Abutsa (fellow Ph.D. student in PMA), I inaugurated the PMA Presentation Series (PMAPS) where we invited scholars to talk to and with graduate students and our community here in PMA. My studies have been supported by the FLAS Fellowship (2021-2023, Summer 2022), the Elizabeth D. Worman Fund, the Ric Trimillos Travel Grant (through the Society for Ethnomusicology).