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Call for Papers: Music Studies on a Damaged Planet: Sound Responses to Environmental Breakdown

27 Mar 2020 (F) Senate House, University of London, UK Deadline: 24 Jan 2020 (F)

The Institute of Musical Research (UK) from the University of London is organising a call for papers. Here is their call:

If, as activist Greta Thunberg says, the only response to climate crisis is to ‘act as if our house is on fire’, where does this leave music studies? Music scholars, like the wider academy and society at large, have struggled to respond to the climate emergency and environmental breakdown. And while nature and the environment have been mounting thematic concerns in some recent work, the scale and complexity of the current ecological crisis and the urgent need for widespread systemic change raise questions about the roles and responsibilities of music scholarship as a whole. If we must now find ways to live on a damaged planet (Tsing, Swanson, Gan and Bubandt 2017), environmental breakdown is no longer simply a topic with which some music scholars choose to engage; rather, it is one of the conditions in which music studies operates.

This one-day symposium asks how music studies should respond to the global ecological crisis. We aim to consider this question across all dimensions of our work – from our objects of study, through methods, to research dissemination, teaching curricula and public engagement – while at the same time interrogating the institutionalisation of music studies itself. Most fundamentally, the conference asks questions about the purpose and politics of academic work. Should critique remain the central academic response to environmental breakdown? What is the role of practice-based research such as composition and performance? How might we address the problem of academic flying and other environmental impacts of knowledge production? How might musicological practice engage effectively with communities most at risk from environmental breakdown? How should we teach music in this time of crisis? As activist movements grow around the world, when and how should academic work become activist work? And looking beyond familiar tropes of critique, advocacy and activism: are there other modes of academic work that might offer more reparative, strategic, or radical forms of response?

The symposium seeks to cultivate a forum in which the ramifications of environmental breakdown for music studies can be properly felt and debated. Doing so is necessarily a speculative, experimental proposition. It means recognising that the ecological crisis intersects with multiple other major social and political issues, including social justice, migration and late capitalism. And it means exploring the personal dimensions of scholarly work, acknowledging that academics are also kin, community members, concerned citizens, and more. ‘Staying with the trouble’ (Haraway 2016) undoubtedly entails difficult affects – despair, anxiety, grief, and the witnessing of damage – but it might also enable a renewal of the scholarly impulse, through new forms of pedagogy, play, storytelling, resource development, scholarly collaboration and collective action. The symposium invites contributions in this spirit of simultaneous concern and commitment.

The symposium will feature six keynote panellists from across academia, activism and industry: Chiara Badiali (Julie’s Bicycle), Chris Garrard (Composer/Co-director, Culture Unstained), Angela Impey (SOAS, University of London), Blythe Pepino (Mesadorm/Founder, Birth Strike For Future), Tina K. Ramnarine (Royal Holloway, University of London), and George Revill (Open University).

We invite proposals for symposium contributions that directly address the question of scholarly responses to the ecological crisis. In addition to standard 20-minute paper submissions, we encourage proposals in alternative formats, such as short workshops, facilitated discussions, mini-papers and roundtable contributions on relevant topics. Please submit abstracts (max 200 words) and a short rationale for any non-standard formats by midnight on 24 Jan 2020 (F) to musicstudiesonadamagedplanet [at] gmail [dot] com. Some travel bursaries will be available to assist with the cost of attending the symposium. If you wish to be considered for a bursary, please include a short explanation of circumstances in your submission.

We encourage participants not to fly for the sole purpose of attending the symposium. Virtual presentation options will be made available where possible. Symposium organisers: Joseph Browning (University of Oxford) and Andrew Green (University of Glasgow)



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