Researching Music Censorship

Call for papers
Researching Music Censorship
University of Copenhagen, Denmark
6-8 June 2013
Deadline: 6 February 2013

Music censorship is a relatively new area of research and as a scholarly field of study it is a disputed issue. This is so because it involves a large range of intertwined components and because in discourses over censorship it is generally difficult to pinpoint the relation between cause and effect. The immanent versatility of the concept – as well as its practical dimensions – calls for a multidisciplinary approach. Further it has proven vitally important to understand the process as a political and social phenomenon resting on various aspects like race, gender, religion and class and the intricate power relations involved in the concept/phenomenon of freedom of expression in relation to music and musicians and to an overarching relation between human rights and musical performance in its broadest sense. Thus, research on music and censorship involves attention to different types of actors such as states, NGOs, corporations, religious organisations and social movements, as well as musicians, composers and the music business, i.e. record companies, concerts agents and broadcasters/distributors. Finally, in the present perspective the study of music censorship also involves aesthetic reflections on the use of musical sound.

The Researching Music Censorship network, which is funded by the Nordic research agency, NordForsk, has for more than three years examined and discussed these questions with Nordic and International researchers. The original objectives of this project stated: “The aim of the network is (will be) to promote and encourage the scholarly study of music censorship, and to research the role of music in relation to human rights and artistic freedom of expression in its broadest sense.”

A number of seminars, meetings and workshops hosted by the participating institutions have focussed on discussing and examining music censorship in relation to the topics “Music and Violence” (Copenhagen May 2011), “Gender and Race” (Lund September 2011), “Theory and Ethics; censorship and self censorship” (Oslo April 2012) and “Religion and the Market” (Järvenpää October 2012). Through in-depth discussions and research papers dealing with the academic perspectives of research into freedom of expression and the particularity of music in this context, the network has gained new insight into the intricate conditions of the role of music in the nexus between negotiations on power play and aesthetic ‘production’.

This conference seeks to present some of the most significant results of the network activities, while also opening the field to new perspectives on the study of music censorship and freedom of expression. It aspires to highlight the complexities of the issues and concepts involved, to encourage a contextualised understanding of music censorship and to address the academic challenges that are included.

The conference will examine:

1) The way in which the study of censorship is strongly related to the various social, political and aesthetic discourses that are found in the cases studied: leading to a notion of ‘Censorship in context’ (John Street, 2012).
2) How the concept of censorship in music is balancing a thin line of differing juridical rules, which are neither consistent and logical nor universal, but highly relying on political and social action.
3) The theoretical and scholarly implications of the concept ‘advocacy’ in relation to the work on music censorship and other kinds of limitations of freedom of expression
4) The acknowledgement that in principle all kinds of music and sound can be subject to limitations and silencing.

Themes of the conference:

THEME ONE: Conceptualising Music Censorship
One of the central aims of the Researching Music Censorship network has been to offer fruitful critique upon the often uncomplicated and simplified definitions of the concept of music censorship in popular discourse. Papers dealing with the concept of music censorship, new perspectives of theories and methodologies of restrictions and regulations in musical expression are invited, as well as perspectives for the understanding of the interplay of music and power.

THEME TWO: Ethics, Self Censorship and Law
Since causes for music censorship are often claimed in the basis of morals and/or law and often addressing quite sensitive issues, the conference seeks to examine the complex merger of judicial legislation, human rights prerogatives and ethical considerations. Papers based on studies of law and human rights are accordingly welcomed as are those addressing ethical understandings of cultural and musical freedom of expression.

THEME THREE: Markets
It has been suggested that censorship takes place when the market forces promote and/or reject certain musics. It has just as strongly been argued that this kind of market control is not censorship, but rather a result of a process of selection based on artistic choice or aesthetics. Papers are invited aiming at discussing the particular regulatory processes at work in relation to markets of music distribution in its broadest sense.

THEME FOUR: Examining Global, Regional, and Local Frameworks for Music Censorship
Papers are invited discussing historical as well as contemporary music censorship, aiming at furthering understanding of music in everyday life, in the discourses between public and private spaces, as well as in war and conflicts. This could include case studies from all over the world and address historical as well as contemporary music censorship.

THEME FIVE: Religion and Tradition
Religious views, both theologically motivated and culturally founded, historically play a central role when music is restricted and censored. Religious discourses are embedded in everything from moral rules of families to the blasphemy laws of states. It also has the possibility to mobilize powerful disciplinary narratives. Yet, music is crucial to the rituals, cultural life, and theology of any given religion and is celebrated as a means of meditation and contemplation of transcendent realities.

The conference will be the last event of the present Nordforsk funded project period, and it will also address and present the possibilities for a continuation of the research into possible new structures.

The format of the conference will include keynote addresses and invited speakers, individual papers, panels and poster presentations. We welcome proposals for all these formats and encourage joint papers as well as alternative forms of presentations including screenings of footage/films, music performances and/or testimonies.

Since the start of the network special attention has been given to PhD scholars. Four seminars have been offered in relation to the meetings and workshops of the larger network. Accordingly, we encourage PhD students working in fields related to censorship, freedom of expression and human rights in music to attend the conference.

The conference will be held in University of Copenhagen, Southern Campus site room 24.0.49. There will be no conference fee, but non-members of the network are kindly asked to pay for their own travel and accommodation. The organisers will assist all participants in getting accommodation in Copenhagen.

A publication based on selected papers from the conference is being planned.

Please send your proposal abstract (250 words) + name, short biography (5 lines) and contact information to kirkegd@hum.ku.dk.

Confirmed speakers: Martin Cloonan, University of Glasgow; Deborah Kapchan, New York University; Martin Stokes, King’s College, London; & Ursula Hemetek, University of Vienna.

Deadline for call for papers is 6 February 2013.

Organizing Committee:
Helmi Järviluoma-Mäkelä, University of Eastern Finland, Finland
Jan Sverre Knudsen, Oslo and Akershus University College, Norway
Jonas Otterbeck, Lund University, Sweden
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