Sound Studies: Mapping the Field

Call for papers
Sound Studies: Mapping the Field
2nd European Sound Studies Association (ESSA) Conference
27-29 June 2014

In 2005, radio scholar Michele Hilmes raised the question whether there was a field called Sound Culture Studies? Her answer was a cautious “yes, there is a field”. We agree, even though it has become increasingly difficult, even for an avid reader, to have a genuine feeling of a single field of sound studies. We see developments that call for institutional change within the academy. And outside academia we witness a growing interest for sound artworks, sound archives, sound designs, audio books, etc. All these examples testify to a vivid, exiting, and rapidly changing field or fields of sound studies.

Having emerged from various traditional disciplines within the humanities and social sciences (musicology, art history, media and cultural studies, psychology, architecture, urban planning, and many more), sound studies has been associated with inter- and trans-disciplinary approaches. Holding on to such positions between, under, or above accepted pillars of knowledge remains important. Future sound studies should maintain its place in an inter-disciplinary transit zone, “a central meeting place where the sonic imaginations go to be challenged, nurtured, refreshed and transformed” (Jonathan Sterne). This calls for a restless testing of the epistemological, theoretical, methodological, and historical premises defining the field of sound studies.

The 2nd ESSA conference will address such developments and ideas of what a future sound studies will or should be and how we are to understand them? What kind of theoretical apparatus is needed to analyze and contextualize disciplinary, artistic, political, and societal changes? And what kind of methodological approaches do they call for?

We invite papers on the following topics (but not restricted to):

– Case studies that testify to the recent changes within sound studies
– Theoretical reflections on sound studies’ futures
– Methodological papers testing the inter- or trans-disciplinary approaches of sound studies
– Historical papers that may help understand and contextualize the current developments
– Demonstrations of changing relations between what is studied and how it is studied
– Papers addressing how the sound industries take part in the recent developments
– Sound design futures
– Presentations of contemporary artworks that incorporate sounds
– The current state of sound aesthetics

Individual papers and presentations

Please send an abstract of no more than 300 words by 15 March 2014 to the organizers at Please indicate whether the abstract is an academic paper or an artwork presentation.


Along with the open paper sessions, we strongly encourage proposals for themed panels. A themed panel will consist of a minimum of 3 papers on a common research question. If you propose a panel, you will be expected to help promote it, i.e. invite participants, and you will also be asked to participate in reviewing contributed abstracts. Examples of panels could include:

– Various methodological or theoretical takes on specific subjects (e.g. film sound, environmental sounds, sound art)
– Discussions of perspectives drawn from central, scholarly work
– Recent developments in sound art
– Sound design

Please send suggestions for panels of no more than 300 words by 1 February 2014 to the organizers:

The conference will offer a number of different presentation formats. Traditional academic papers (20+20 minutes), artwork presentations (20+20 minutes), and exhibitions.

Keynote speakers

Georgina Born (Oxford University, UK)
Norie Neumark (La Trobe University, Australia)
Carolyn Birdsall (Amsterdam University, Holland)

Important deadlines

– Panels proposals 1 February 2014
– Decisions regarding the panels will be made by 15 February 2014
– Abstracts for open paper presentations and for panel papers are due on 15 March 2014
– Decisions regarding the review process of the open abstracts and panel abstracts will be made by 15 April 2014

Conference fee

– Early bird registration for ESSA 2014 opens on 15 April 2014
– Late bird registration opens on 1 June 2014

Conference fee: €100 (early birds €80)
Students (without grants) €60 (early birds €45)

ESSA 2014 will be a joint venture between The Nordic Research Network for Sound Studies (sponsored by NordForsk 2012-2014) and ESSA.

The organizing committee is: associate professor Morten Michelsen, University of Copenhagen, assistant professor Jacob Kreutzfeldt, University of Copenhagen and associate professor Erik Granly Jensen, University of Southern Denmark. For questions regarding ESSA 2014 please write to the organizers at