Steph Doktor is Assistant Professor of Music Theory at Temple University, and her research and teaching ask, “How can we hear inequality?” Her current book project, Reinventing Whiteness: Race in the Early Jazz Marketplace (under contract with University of California Press), evaluates the role of white supremacy in the unprecedented success of 1920s Black dance music. Doktor’s research has appeared in the Journal of the Society for American Music, Jazz & Culture, and American Music. She has forthcoming articles in the Oxford Handbook of Arrangement Studies and Journal of the American Musicological Society.
Wolf Humanities Center Regional Fellow
2023—2024 Forum on Revolution
Assistant Professor of Music Studies, Temple University Boyer College of Music and Dance
Reconstructing Whiteness: Racial Economies of Early Jazz
In the 1920s, jazz was the first Black music to become so popular that it defined an era and gave rise to a newly formed recording industry in the US. The Blackening of American culture threatened white dominance, evidence by the rise of the second Ku Klux Klan, immigration restrictions, and state-sanctioned eugenics practices. “Reconstructing Whiteness: Racial Economies of Early Jazz” examines the dissonance between unprecedented Black musical achievements and a resurgence of white supremacy. I ask how making, selling, and buying jazz rehearsed race, especially as white Americans tried to master and own Black sound. Using political theories of racial capitalism, I analyze corporate structures, trade press magazines, copyright laws, recording contracts, and musical sound to unveil how whiteness contoured the early jazz marketplace.