Jonathan Leal


Areas of Interest
Race and Ethnicity, Border Poetics, Ethnomusicology and Sound Studies, Decolonial Thought, Improvisation Studies


Broadly speaking, Jonathan Leal researches the complementary roles of sight and sound in the construction of individual and communal identities in the Américas.  Specifically, he reads the harmonies and dissonances between minority literatures, popular musics, and urban soundscapes to map tensions between local particularity and global connectivity, amplifying the intersections of Chicana/o, Latina/o, and African American aesthetic practices as points of entry to decolonial thought. Through literary criticism, ethnomusicology, sound studies, and decolonial thought, Jonathan engages essays, poetry, periodicals, music scores, recorded sounds, live performances, oral histories, and acoustic spaces to unpack the dynamics between individuals and communities at the edges of nations and in the margins of modernity. Jonathan grew up in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and has studied literature and music for years, earning a B.A. and M.A. in English at the University of North Texas while simultaneously working as a music educator, composer, and percussion performer in the United States and abroad. In addition to his scholarly and musical endeavors, he is also a practicing essayist.

Select Fellowships

2014-2017 Graduate Fellow at the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity