Call for Papers
Music, Research, and Activism
May 10–12, 2023 University of Helsinki

What does social and environmental justice mean in music or music research? How can music and music research advance equality, equity, human rights or ecological sustainability? What could music researchers and practitioners do in our contemporary world characterized by climate emergency, ecocide, racism, gender discrimination, war, conflict, and humanitarian crises? What is the relationship between music and the rest of society, and what might activist research look like in the field of music studies?

These kinds of questions have preoccupied music researchers, practitioners, and other professionals more and more during the past two decades, in various branches of music research, from historical and systematic musicology, ethnomusicology, music theory, and popular music studies to music education, sound and technology studies, soundscape studies and artistic based research. Like in many other disciplines within the humanities, social sciences, and environmental sciences, a growing interest has developed rapidly in music studies about politically engaged activist research that is committed to social and environmental justice, anti-oppression, and social change. This has often resulted in new modes of critical and action research, applied research and co-operative institutional projects, participatory and creative methodologies, as well as in novel experiments in university teaching and reflections on the positionality and roles of a music scholar.

The conference Music, Research and Activism seeks to bring together scholars and practitioners engaged in music, research, and activism in different disciplines and scholarly traditions. Activist research may be motivated with environmental and social movements and struggles, as well as with topical crises and conflicts such as climate emergency, ecological catastrophes, wars and conflicts, forced migration, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Activist music research calls us to revisit many classical questions of music research (in both practical and theoretical perspectives), addressing music as a social and political force, cultural practice, identity technology, material culture and economy. It is also crucial to acknowledge the epistemological diversity of the world, which fuels activist researchers to engage with forms of knowledge production beyond academic conventions.

The conference will include keynote presentations by ecomusicology and sustainability researcher Aaron S. Allen, from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (US); Chicana artivista, musician and feminist music theorist Martha Gonzalez from the Department of Chicanx-Latinx Studies at the Scripps College (California, US); and feminist writer and social critic Minna Salami (London, UK). Moreover, the conference will include a panel discussion on activist approaches in music history research.

The conference welcomes proposals for individual papers and themed sessions from scholars and practitioners engaged with music and activist research. The duration of conference papers will be 20 minutes for the presentation, 8 minutes for discussion, and 2 minutes to prepare for the next talk. Special session proposals will consist of 3–4 conference papers linked thematically together. In addition to academic conference papers, the conference welcomes practice research contributions, such as video essays, short documentary films, audio/radiophonic essays, and mixed media presentations. All research presentations can include live music examples, but no special live music technology will be provided by the conference. There are pianos at some lecture halls. The language of the conference is English.

Topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Methodologies of activist music research
  • Music and social/environmental justice
  • Music and social movements (e.g., #metoo, BLM, Extinction Rebellion, peace and anti-war movements)
  • Ecomusicology
  • Music and sustainability
  • Anti-racist activism in music and music scholarship
  • Indigenous activism in music and music scholarship
  • Feminist and LGBTIQ activism in music and music scholarship
  • Activist music history research
  • Activist music education
  • Music, human rights and capability studies
  • Activist music and musicians, artivism and artistic research
  • Musical diversity in cultural heritage
  • Music and violence
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion projects within music institutions and industries
  • Applied ethno/musicology and music research as advocacy work
  • Activist music research in university teaching
  • Any other related topic

The conference is being organized as a face-to-face conference, to be held at the City Centre Campus of the University of Helsinki, Finland. The conference has an accessible online participation as an option for a few participants. This option will be reserved for anyone with limited accessibility who is unable to travel to the conference, due to the lack of funding or otherwise. The participants are asked to mention in their abstract submission whether they are applying to attend the onsite or online conference. Please note that it is not possible to shift between categories after submitting your abstract.

Submission Guidelines

Send in your proposal via the submission form below by 15 October 2022.

Receipt of proposals will be acknowledged via e-mail, and the decision of acceptance will be notified by December 16, 2022. The conference draft program will be announced in early Spring 2023. The likely conference fee will be €120 (onsite, waged), or €60 (onsite, unwaged) including coffees and lunches. Online attendance will be €50. For unwaged participants unable to pay the participation fee, please contact the organizer to see if a fee waiver can be arranged.

Please follow the conference website for further information, such as guidelines on registration details.