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Call for Papers: Music’s institution and the (de)colonial

call for papers lund university

Lund University, Sweden

4–5 May 2023

Deadline for submissions: 14 February, 2023

Sanne Krogh-Groth, Phil Dodds and Brandon Farnsworth of the Lund University Division of Musicology invite contributions to a two-day conference at Lund University, Sweden, on 4–5 May 2023. We welcome researchers, artists, and activists whose work explores issues of colonialism, decolonial resistance, and/or institutional decolonisation initiatives in relation to music’s past and present.

Please submit a title and abstract (max. 200 words) of your proposed contribution to philip.dodds@kultur.lu.se no later than 14 February 2023. We will prioritise in-person presentations, but remote presentations may be accepted in exceptional cases. The selection will be made by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Sanne Krogh-Groth, Dr. Phil Dodds and Dr. Brandon Farnsworth of the Lund University Division of Musicology. A budget exists for covering the travel costs of scholars without other sources of funding.

We welcome creative methods, interdisciplinary approaches, and different presentation formats, but we invite all contributors to specifically address one of the following three themes

  1. Musical colonisation

Kofi Agawu has directed attention to the processes and effects of “musical colonization” (2016, 338), highlighting, among other things, the legacy of colonial European ethnomusicology and the global imposition of Protestant hymns’ diatonic tonality in the nineteenth century. In the African context this was, according to Agawu, “musical violence of a very high order,” the intricacies and processes of which “remain to be properly explored” (ibid.). We therefore invite contributors to explore the processes and consequences of musical colonisation, and the different forms it has taken in different times and places. Specifically:

  • How have colonising powers sought to categorise and taxonomise indigenous music? 
  • How have the musical instruments, styles, and conventions of colonised people been suppressed?
  • Through which disciplinary techniques and instruments have colonisers imposed their musical practices and tonal systems?
  • How has the composition and performance of music functioned as a means of claiming and asserting control over colonised places and peoples?

2. Music as decolonial resistance

Throughout history many musicians and composers have expressed their political resistance through music practices. The historical Avant-garde did it with abstraction and insistence on art’s materiality, 1960s and 1970s protest movements turned to folk-song tradition and “sing and song” writing, the punk movement used loudness and noise, while artists in totalitarian systems often turn to religious references and expressions. With this context we ask contributors to consider:

  • How is musical resistance expressed in colonial contexts?
  • What are the institutional strategies?
  • What are the aesthetics?
  • How can music be an active part of the processes of decolonisation? 

3. Dynamics of colonialism in musical institutions today

National governments and inter-governmental organisations have in the past two decades launched programmes meant to explicitly address their colonial legacies in the field of the arts, often part of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives. Our focus is primarily on the Nordic region, but we welcome studies from other contexts, as well as explorations of the geographical and geopolitical complexity of musical institutions’ decolonisation policies, including from STS and infrastructural critique perspectives, with questions such as: 

  • How are policies addressing colonial legacies being deployed, and how are they interacting with and potentially changing theories of musical aesthetics?
  • To what extent do they address and overcome colonial relations? 
  • How do concepts of decolonisation intersect with other DEI initiatives in music and arts policy today?
  • What are the blindspots and negative unintended consequences of these policies?
  • In what ways do these programmes intersect with dynamics of neocolonialism? What do contemporary debates on decolonisation in music and art discourses fail to address and why?

Please contact philip.dodds@kultur.lu.se in advance of the deadline should you have any questions.

Interested in other research calls? See also the Glissando/Sounds Now call for papers for issue 43: Diversity. Curating. Contemporary music and sound art

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