Music Race Empire Symposium image

April 28-30, 2011

Keynotes: Kofi Agawu (Princeton University) and Michael Denning (Yale University)

The central role of music in the formation of society and culture is a settled general axiom. We can hardly say the same of the place of music in perhaps the most significant event of our modern time: the widespread transnational and transcontinental mass circulation of peoples, capital, goods, ideas, cultural forms and practices, and the assumption, imposition, consolidation, subversion, and refusal of new identities and subjectivities within and across borders. In the contexts of cultural studies and postcolonial scholarship, and, more particularly, in the transnational studies of race and empire, there has been surprisingly little written on musical matters. The formal discipline of ethnomusicology has made sizable contributions, but these initiatives have, in large part, focused on the particulars of local traditions. Cultural critics, moreover, have made important connections between culture and the broad spheres of political economy, race, and imperialism, yet only rarely have they considered music as a central factor in the equation. It would seem that music stands at once conspicuous and silent within the common frames of analysis explaining the history and legacy of race and empire.

It is from this gap in the critical analysis of culture that the research circle has developed and that our planning for the conference has arisen. The event, organized through the generous support of the UW International Institute and Global Studies, will assemble a diverse group of renowned scholars who represent some of the main research methodologies and areas of global cultural study, and who share interest in exploring the various connections between music, race, and empire. By bringing together empirically-minded researchers with deep knowledge of area traditions and theoretically-minded scholars conversant in the critical study of global cultures, we seek to widen the perspective of world cultural studies and to advance a new, critical focus on music’s centrality in the transnational production of race and on the impact of race in the transnational production, circulation, and consumption of musical practices and forms.

For more information, please contact Scott Carter (Project Coordinator)