CFP: MUSIC STUDIES AND THE ANTHROPOCENE: RUPTURES AND CONVERGENCES

Abstracts Due January 15, 2022
Conference: May 21-22, 2022
Hybrid: In-Person and Virtual (Location TBD)

“The entire face of the Earth today bears the imprint of human power.”  Thus remarked George-Louis Leclerc in his Epochs of Nature (1778), where he claimed that the Earth had entered an Epoch of Man—and recommended that human beings “set the temperature” of the Earth itself and ensure the survival of “human civilization” through feats of geoengineering. A century later, geologist Antonio Stoppani announced the coming of the “Anthropozoic Era,” as the human species became a “geological element” that “does not pale in the face of the greatest forces of the globe.”  


Much more recently, the term “Anthropocene” was coined by geologist Paul Crutzen and biologist Eugene Stoermer in 2011. As the successor to the period of remarkable climactic stability known as the Holocene, the “Anthropocene” was intended to capture the long-lasting, substantial, global changes to the environment wrought by human agency.  The term is now used across disciplines and in public conversations about ecological crisis.  But the concept and argument of the Anthropocene, as well as the social, cultural, and ecological conditions it identifies, bears a much deeper history than is often acknowledged, with far-reaching implications for scholars working on the period spanning at least the sixteenth century to the present day. 


The Anthropocene has received little attention in music studies so far. This relative neglect may be unsurprising, given the epistemological distances that separate areas of geological and musicological inquiry. And yet, the Anthropocene can also alter the ways in which we think about music’s relation to (more commonly studied categories of) nature, landscape, ecology and climate change. With this discussion-based symposium, we hope to establish a set of positions for music scholars that take seriously the demands the Anthropocene places on humanistic scholarship. 


More particularly, this two-day conference will seek out ways in which music scholars can not only learn from, but also provide new insights into the Anthropocene. As several historians have recently noted, the term “Anthropocene” can misleadingly suggest the impact of humanity as a whole on the global environment. In reality, however, “steam-powered clique[s]” of white, wealthy, Christian, European men (Malm 2014) sought to remake the world in their image, exalting themselves as “human” in the process—and as superior to the less-than-human communities whom they have oppressed. The work of Anthropos has included (but is not limited to) the perpetuation of systems and processes of fossil capitalism, enslavement, colonialism, genocide, racism, resource extraction, and dispossession—in short, the nexus of “Man” identified by Caribbean cultural theorist Sylvia Wynter. 


This conference brings musical and sonic resources and archives to bear on the history and politics of environmental justice, the convergence of anti-racism and climate action, and new environmentalism proposed by these writers. We invite papers from scholars of music and sound that seek to develop a “musicology in/of the Anthropocene.”  We especially encourage papers that engage issues of decoloniality, and treat globally situated, transnational, and non-Western topics.  We welcome papers by graduate students, emerging scholars, contingent scholars, and independent researchers from around the world.  


Papers (2,500-3,000 words) might address any of the following areas, or establish new sites of inquiry:

  • Critique and reconciliation of approaches to the Anthropocene in music studies, with the intention of explicating a “musicology in/of the Anthropocene” that takes up the Anthropocene’s climatic, geological, and political challenges. 

    • These might include its entanglements in capital, its political ecologies, its decolonial demands, and its racializing dimensions;

  • What it entails for scholars of music and sound to answer calls within the humanities to radically transform the "meaning of history" (Chakrabarty 2009) in light of widespread acknowledgment of the historicity of the Anthropocene and of humanity as a geological agent;


  • How, why, and whether the "normative boundaries" of music studies (Sykes 2019) are linked to value systems native to the idea of the Anthropocene, and the potential for queer and feminist methodologies to blur these disciplinary boundaries; 


  • Questions about the histories of sound, aurality, and aural technologies in/of the Anthropocene, human geological agency, and Baconian, Western impulses towards environment-making and management, alongside attendant control of de-humanized bodies.


This conference will consist of two days of roundtable discussions conceived to disrupt institutional hierarchies and disciplinary barriers. To establish a basis for deep inquiry, the first day will begin with a seminar devoted to general discussion of several cross-disciplinary key texts. All conference registrants are strongly encouraged to attend. This seminar will be followed by meetings of participants with “paper partners,” in which all scholars whose papers have been accepted to the event will meet in pairs to provide and receive detailed feedback on their paper drafts. On the second day, panels will meet to discuss these pre-circulated drafts in an open forum with all conference registrants.

This conference will be the first of what we hope will be many productive collaborations, actions and events to come out of the Music Studies in/of the Anthropocene Research Network.

Please submit your abstract (no more than 300 words) and proposed title by 15 January 2022 to musicstudiesanthropocene@gmail.com.  In your email (but not in your proposal), include your contact information (name, email address, institutional affiliation, if any).  Please email Program Committee members Kirsten Paige at kspaige2@ncsu.edu or Andrew Chung at andrew.chung@unt.edu with any questions you may have.  Decisions will be communicated by 1 March 2022.

Graduate students are especially encouraged to apply.  At least one graduate student paper will be selected to receive the Graduate Student Paper Prize, which carries with it a monetary award and mentorship towards publication.  Graduate students will also be encouraged to moderate panels. 

Program Committee & Research Network Leads: Andrew Chung (UNT), Gabrielle Cornish (Miami), Megan Steigerwald Ille (CCM), Kirsten Paige (NC State), Lee Veeraraghavan (Tulane), Gavin Williams (King’s College London)

Advisory Team: Alexander Rehding (Harvard), Daniel Grimley (Oxford), James Davies (UC Berkeley)