Call for Expressions of Interest:  Musical Activism and Agency: Contestations and Confluences, Pre-Conference Symposium, Society for Ethnomusicology 2020 Annual Meeting, Ottawa/Gatineau, CANADA
The Local Arrangements Committee for the Society for Ethnomusicology 2020 Annual Meeting is soliciting expressions of interest for participation in the pre-conference symposium that has as its theme, Musical Activism and Agency: Contestations and Confluences.
The day-long symposium will be held on Wednesday, October 21st, 2020 at the Canadian Museum of History, in Gatineau, Quebec. We encourage participation in the form of scholarly presentations and dialogues between scholars and performers in response to the abstracts for the panels described below. In your statement of interest, please identify how your anticipated participation (and that of your collaborator, if a dialogue “presentation”) intersects with the relevant panel theme. Statements of interest should not exceed 100 words and should be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by May 10th, 2019.
Please note that presentations can be in English or French.
Kind regards,
LAC Co-Chairs,
Anna Hoefnagels (Carleton University)
Judith Klassen (Canadian Museum of History)
Gordon Smith (Queen’s University)
Margaret Walker (Queen’s University)

Musical Activism and Agency: Contestations and Confluences
Pre-conference symposium, Society for Ethnomusicology 2020 Annual Meeting
Ottawa/Gatineau, CANADA

Ottawa, the capital city of Canada, sits at the confluence of three major rivers (Ottawa, Gatineau, and Rideau) and two provinces (Ontario and Quebec), and is home to a wide range of cultural and linguistic groups. Ottawa is also an epicentre for political activism. Indigenous autonomy, human rights, and environmental issues such as climate change and the decimation of natural materials and habitats remain at the forefront of many Canadian minds and media. Activist groups who gather on Parliament Hill to bring these and other issues to the attention of the federal government and the broader Canadian public often underscore their messages with music, movement, and other forms of creative expression.

The pre-conference symposium of the SEM 2020 Annual Meeting has as its theme Musical Activism and Agency: Contestations and Confluences to invite deep and careful reflection on issues related to political and musical activism and the potential of music to bring attention to contemporary critical issues. Central to these considerations is the role of performers and music creators, as well as consumers and audiences, in challenging dominant narratives and simplistic understandings of music vis-à-vis politics and activism. Sites of resistance – virtual and place-based – and the accountability of researchers, as witnesses to musical activism and contributors to new narratives, must be explored. Questions around responsible and respectful engagement with activist communities and musicians are critical to current and future directions in ethnomusicological inquiry. Each roundtable will feature dialogues between musicians and ethnomusicologists and presentations by researchers who have been deeply engaged with communities, individuals, and cultural practices.


Roundtable One – Music, the Environment and Displacement 

Participants in this roundtable discuss ways in which contemporary musicians and activists use their artistic practice and output to bring attention to environmental issues and the forced relocation of peoples. This roundtable showcases specific examples of the intersections between music, the environment, and displacement.


Roundtable Two – Sites of Resistance

Through a series of case studies, this roundtable highlights the importance of place – and the specificity of both geographical and virtual location – to activism. While certain spaces such as Parliament Hill are identified as the location for action, this panel also accounts for musical activism through online media and other platforms for resistance and resilience.

Roundtable Three – Confronting Extractionism: Responsible Research Ethics and Practices

In recent years, ethnographic research methods have been criticized for extractionist, transactional tendencies. At the same time, the significance of positionality and reflexivity vis-à-vis power, human interactions, and the shaping of “knowledge” through fieldwork and community engagement have been underscored.  This panel queries the relationships that characterize contemporary ethnomusicological research and the responsible and ethical practices that such research demands.

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