Popular Music and Public Diplomacy Technische Universität Dortmund, Germany 6-8 November 2015
Call for Papers
In the early years of the Cold War, Western nations increasingly turned towards popular music in their public diplomacy. While the diplomatic use of popular music was initially limited to such genres as jazz and gospel, the second half of the twentieth century saw a growing presence of various popular genres in diplomatic contexts, including country, bluegrass, rock, punk, reggae, and hip-hop. As an instrument of public diplomacy, popular music plays a complex role in contested terrain. Whether it functions as cultural subversion, as a reaffirmation of cultural hegemony, or as a combination of both is conditioned by a web of interdependent factors ranging from the music itself to its mediation and appropriation in different contexts.
Music diplomacy has not only impacted the ways in which audiences perceive foreign cultures, but it has also helped to shape the cultural horizons of politicians, diplomats, cultural managers, journalists, and musicians involved in diplomatic programs. In this way, music diplomacy has had highly significant cultural and aesthetic effects. The musicians’ role as their countries’ cultural ambassadors, for instance, had the potential to lead to radical transformations in the way they were perceived at home, forcing them to reconfigure their rhetorical and musical legitimation as artists. In a way, the diplomatic usability of musicians as ambassadors is an aesthetic and performative benchmark by means of which artists have re-defined themselves and their work. International cultural exchange with local musicians in host countries likewise inspired musical ambassadors to venture into previously unknown musical and cultural territories, thus impacting their aesthetics and oeuvres.
This conference seeks to illuminate the diplomatic function of popular music from a transnational and transdisciplinary perspective, accentuating its interconnectivity and dissemination across national borders. We are particularly interested in the nexus of power, popularity, aesthetics, and cultural exchange. How did popular music function in the ideological conflict between East and West, for instance, and how did its function change after the fall of the Iron Curtain? How did U.S. popular music programs interact with other nations’ initiatives to channel their self-representation through popular music? Who are the agents, stakeholders, and gatekeepers of popular music diplomacy? What is the role of celebrity in music diplomacy? Has popular music been an “efficient” instrument of national and communal self-representation and how do institutions measure its efficiency?
We invite contributions from a variety of disciplines, including cultural studies, musicology, ethnomusicology, political science, diplomacy studies, history, sociology, literature, international relations, and other relevant fields. Proposals should include a title, 250 word abstract, technical requirements, and short biographical sketch. Please submit your proposal by 1 April 2015 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keynote speakers include Martha Bayles (Boston College, U.S.) and Klaus Nathaus (University of Oslo, Norway). The conference is hosted by the Department of English and American Studies as well as the Department of Music and Musicology at TU Dortmund University, Germany.
Organizing Committee: Mario Dunkel (TU Dortmund University, Germany) Sina Nitzsche (TU Dortmund University, Germany)