Music and imagined communities.
Articulations of the self and other in the musical realm.
28-29 October 2011, European University Institute, Florence
The present conference addresses the potential of music for generating collective identities, not only on the national level, but also in the translational context of gender, class, ethnicity, etc. The particular approach to the “musically imagined communities” that it proposes, however, is that which opens the analysis of music and identity-formation to include not only the ways music generates belonging and allows collectivities to imagine themselves as communities, but also the ways the musical experience generates boundaries, alienation, stigmatization and exclusion.
In his famous Imagined Communities Benedict Anderson emphasized the role of print in enabling the creation of a feeling of nationhood in large collectivities of people who, although they could not have face to face contact with each other, imagined themselves as a community (1983). Ever since Anderson formulated his thesis, music has been intensively researched as yet another key cultural practice in the building of collective identities (e.g. White and Murphy 2001). In fact, music has been identified not only as one of the media through which communities can be imagined and boundaries between different groups recognized, but also as a genre offering a very particular experience of belonging (Stokes 1994).
Indeed, the performative nature of music, the sensations it offers to the body and the modes of sociability it enables, make it a perfect vehicle for its consumers to place themselves in “imaginary cultural narratives” (Frith 1996: 124). The musical performance, in fact, conjures up collective memories with an immediacy and intensity unmatched by any other social activity (Stokes 1994). This potential of music as a medium of imagining communities is twofold, however. It can both induce submersion into the mainstream, dominant collectivity, or construct spaces of alteritiy, difference and dissent (Born 1993). In other words, music provides not only the means to construct the collective “self”, but it also constitutes a “symbolic system to convey the exotic and the other” (Bohlman 2000: 189).
Inclusion and exclusion via music appear therefore as two sides of the same coin. Musically imagined communities can only function if they define their own margins. And it is “at the borders between musics and nations”, as Bohlman put it, “that the pressing battles over identity are most viciously fought” (2004: xxv). The musical experience allows, therefore, not only different modes of identification, but it can generate both belonging and non-belonging (Born and Hesmondhalgh 2000, Negus and Roman-Velazquez 2002).
We welcome contributions not only from the field of musicology, but also history, anthropology, sociology or cultural studies.
Please, send your abstracts by 30 June 2011 to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Magdalena Waligorska
Freie Universität Berlin
Institut für Deutsche u. Niederländische Philologie
Habelschwerdter Allee 45,
Room JK 28 128
tel. +49 30 838 54 828
mob. +49 151 4037 1157
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