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James A Owen

Blurred image of the arch used as background for stylistic purposes.
Assistant Director, Institute of Native American Studies
Academic Professional Associate

James Owen is Assistant Director, Academic Professional Associate, and Instructor in the Institute of Native American Studies. He is a historian and musician from the mountains of Western North Carolina. He has held fellowships and received funding from the Newberry Library, the American Musicological Society, the Moravian Music Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the UGA Graduate School. James teaches undergraduate & graduate courses in US History, Native American History, Religion in America, and Senior Thesis courses, as well as Native AMerican Studies an d policy-related courses including Indigenous Peoples and Globalization, the Native American Graves Protection & Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). He advises INAS certificate students and the Native American Student Association (NASA). Dr. Owen's work bridges the fields of Native American Studies, Appalachian Studies, US & Caribbean History, Religious history, ethnomusicology, and ecomusicology. His research focuses on the sounds of North American and Caribbean places as Christianity and capitalist economies were introduced into Indigenous societies. This research explores the ways that social and economic changes are evident in the sound worlds and music of Indigenous places, engaging indigenous languages, ethnomusicology, ethnobotany, and ethnozoology, 

Dr. Owen is committed to collaborative research and community engagement. Along with teaching and research, his work at UGA covers a broad range of Native American history, contemporary issues, public outreach, and administration of the Institute. He works closely with INAS Director, LeAnne Howe, Eidson Distinguished Professor of American Literature, to sustain a rich program of courses, guest speakers, Native-focused events, and community engagement in Georgia and North Carolina. Dr. Owen collaborates with James F. Brooks, Carl & Sally Gable Distinguished Professor of History, on regional Native History projects, programming and student visits to Cherokee Country in North Carolina. He has worked with Claudio Saunt, Richard B. Russell Professor of American History (Unworthy Republic, West of the Revolution, the Invasion of America interactive digital history map, and the forth-coming Cherokee Valuations Project interactive map), Rebecca Nagle (Cherokee Nation advocate, journalist and author whose book, The Fire We Carry,  for which Dr. Owen was a historical researcher, will be released in September 2024), ethnomusicologist Jean Kidula, Professor of Music, the Laboratory of Archaeology at UGA, and Western Carolina University's Cherokee Studies and Cherokee Language programs. He is a board member of Georgia's Historic Piedmont Scenic Byways Corporation (HPSBC), a non-profit, which manages the Rock Hawk Effigy Mound site in Putnam Co, GA. James teaches US History for Common Good Atlanta and is also part of the management team for the Latin American Ethnobotanical Garden at UGA (which will become the Garden of the Americas to include an expansion of native southeast plants in 2024-25).

Dr. Owen's current book project looks at indigenous and creole language translations of Christian hymns and biblical narratives from the seventeenth through the early nineteenth century. His work demonstrates that knowledge shared in multi-ethnic mission communities of the New World has played a central role in shaping evangelical Christianity. He is currently participating in a project on the history of the Asheville Community Resource Center, an activist collective of the early 2000s. Dr. Owen's publications include Community & Place, Ethnicity, Indigeneity, and Globalization (textbook KendallHunt, 2020) and the book chapter, "Come Holy Spirit, Lord God: The Holy Ghost in the Cherokee Mountains" in Seeking Home: Marginalization and Representation in Appalachian Literature and Song (UT Press, 2017). 

James has been a working musician since the late 1980s. He plays drums, percussion, synthesizers, clarinet, and vocals with rock, free-improvisation, and experimental music groups and in solo performances. His experimental music employs loops, samples, field recordings, contact mics, triggers, and controlled feedback using traditional instruments, found objects, home-made string & percussion instruments, and voice. James premiered his original composition Gwal'ga'hi: An Aural Eco-History of Frog Place at the 2014 Ecomusicologies conference. His frequent collaborators include Don Howland, Shane Parish, Eric Hubner, Matt Gentling, Michael Pierce, and regional performers and musicians in Athens and Asheville. He has released recordings on In the Red Records (LA, CA), Red Lounge Records (Karlsruhe, Germany), Hate Records (Rome, Italy), Family Night Records (Asheville, NC), Open Letter Records (Asheville, NC), and bandcamp.

Upcoming Activities for the 2024-2025 Academic year: 

October 5, 2pm Dr. Owen will be giving the keynote lecture, "John Comenius and Education at Harvard Indian School"  for the 167th Moravian Historical Society gathering in Nazareth Pennsylvania, discussing the seventeenth-century relationship between John Amos Comenius, last Bishop of the Bohemian Brethren, and John Eliot, the Apostle to the Indians of Massachusetts Bay Colony. 

August - September NAGPRA info-sessions at UGA, check events calendar for listings, some sessions will be open to the public, others will be limited to UGA faculty and students.



 Ph.D. US & Caribbean History/ Native American Studies, University of Georgia. Dissertation title: “’To Kindle a Flame of Sacred Love’: German Hymnody Among Arawaks, Cherokees, and Jamaican Slaves, 1738-1838.” Advisor: Claudio Saunt. 2019. 

M.A. US History/ Cherokee Studies, Western Carolina University. Advisor: Andrew Denson. 2012. 

Apprenticeship in Publishing, University of Georgia Press, Acquisitions and Manuscript editorial staff assistant. May – July, 2019. 

Apprenticeship in Printmaking, 16th-20th century techniques & materials. Hand-Cranked Letter Press, Lark Books, Asheville, NC. Lance Willie. 2003-2006. 

Journeyman Mason, architectural ceramics, Kossler Architectural Ceramics, Asheville, NC. Heinz Kossler. 1998-2003. 

B.A. Interdisciplinary Studies: Art, Music, and Culture. Appalachian State University. 1996. 

Events featuring James A Owen

Dr James Owen, Assistant Director of UGA's Institute of Native American Studies, will discuss the purpose of a land acknowledgement and why these statements are important, especially at an institution like UNG, which played a particular role in the dispossession of Cherokee Nation in teh early 19th century. Land acknowledgements are not about placing blame on Euro…

Tate Student Center Intersection Room

Join us for a talk and discussion on being a Native ally sponsored by UGA's Native American Student Association and the Institute of Native American Studies.

Being an ally of Native peoples takes more than just being interested in Native American people, more than just being a friend to Native peoples, and more than simply supporting Native activism and…

Miller Learning Center, Room 207

Calling all outdoor enthusiasts! Dr. James Owen will be presenting a talk titled "Indigenous Landscapes: Past and Present" on the Southeast and how to be mindful of the history of the land we explore outdoors.

Join us to hear about the settler colonialism that lead to present day "wilderness areas" while learning how to stop perpetuating it.


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