IASPM International Conferences - Proceedings, Situating Popular Musics

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Music, the word and the world; or the banality of (South African) classification
Christopher Ballantine

Last modified: 2013-01-22


Systems of classification pervade all aspects of our lives, prescribing our moral and aesthetic worlds, constructing our values, shaping our identities, creating the perspectives in which we view ourselves and others.  Yet despite the fact that these systems impact so powerfully on people's lives, they remain largely invisible. This is a problem everywhere, but especially in societies whose conflicts are fuelled by issues arising from categories such as “race”, gender, class or nationality. Is music – and the study of music – exempt from these concerns? If not, then how is it implicated, and with what consequences? What is its role? This paper examines the banality of classification in general and its entanglement with music in particular. Though the issues are of the broadest relevance, the paper focuses specifically on post-apartheid South Africa.

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