Dance Music Sex Romance: Pop and the Body Politic

2009 Pop Conference at EMP|SFM
April 16-19, 2009, Seattle, WA
Call for Proposals

Though Prince seems to have bowdlerized “D.M.S.R.” in his concerts since becoming a Jehovah’s Witness, the relationship of pop music to sex, love, physical movement, and the body rarely stays hidden very long. For this year’s Pop Conference we invite presentations, addressing any period or style of music, that bring erotic and sensual issues to the forefront and connect them to political and aesthetic concerns. Rock and roll has long congratulated itself on riding the Big Beat over all sanctimonious opposition, but can we take our sense of these archetypal struggles somewhere beyond, say, Footloose?

Topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • Languages of desire and union in pop: the relationship of ballads, tenderness, and couplehood to carnality and the commerce of bodies.
  • Dancing and dance crazes as forces in pop history and the dancefloor as a particularly charged space of friction, play, and unsettling possibility.
  • Pop passion as a conduit for capitalism, modernization, and transnational flows, but also local scenes, community formation, and religion.
  • How the pop body is marked by, and marks out, race, gender, nationality, class, and region; music as a means for bodies sharing space.
  • Music and the negotiation of sexual norms: sonic fetishism, erotics of pain and disorder, representations of beauty and ugliness.
  • Social media and D.M.S.R. A YouTube answer video as a kind of love letter; the libidinal economy of music-sharing communities and Web 2.0 culture.
  • Scandal and excess: the pop urge to take it to the limit; celebrity culture and indie puritanism; humor and hyperbole.
  • Voice, gesture, and other modalities of embodiment and disembodiment.
  • The diva figure, with all the complexity/trouble/pleasure that term carries.
  • The many musical iterations of what a German Jewish immigrant, arrived at the dawn of modern pop, called “Makin’ Whoopee.”
  • Send proposals of up to 250 words and a 50 word bio to Eric Weisbard at and by December 16, 2008. Panel proposals (short collective statement and full individual proposals/bios) and roundtable proposals (full collective statement, bios for all panelists) are welcome. Lively writing and unorthodox approaches are particularly welcome. For questions, contact the organizer or program committee members: Garnette Cadogan, Kyra Gaunt ( Baruch College ), David Grubbs ( Brooklyn College ), Margie Maynard (EMP|SFM), Michele Myers (KEXP), Diane Pecknold ( University of Louisville ), Ann Powers (Los Angeles Times), Sonnet Retman ( University of Washington ), Carlo Rotella ( Boston College ), Alexandra Vazquez ( Princeton University ), and Carl Wilson (The Globe and Mail).

    The Pop Conference at EMP|SFM, now in its eighth year, joins academics, critics, performers, and writers of all kinds in a rare common discussion. Our second collection, Listen Again: A Momentary History of Pop Music, was recently published by Duke University Press. The conference is sponsored by the American Music Partnership of Seattle (Experience Music Project, the University of Washington School of Music, and KEXP 90.3 FM), through a grant from the Allen Foundation for Music.

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