Music, Migration, Belonging/s in 21st-Century Europe
Conference at the mdw–University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, Austria
November 24–25, 2023
Music and Minorities Research Center
The question of belonging is important to everyone. Yet, this question becomes particularly significant to the experience of migration, with people leaving or being forced to leave familiar structures of belonging, finding themselves in new, alien contexts and environments. While music studies scholars have debated issues of identity in depth, the notion of belonging or belongings – as well as the counterpart non-belonging – has yet to be more widely theorized.
In music research, belonging is often considered synonymous with membership, citizenship, and identity. In other disciplines, such as gender studies (e.g. Yuval-Davis 2006), anthropology (e.g. Strasser 2009; Jones and Krzyzanowski 2008), sociology (e.g. Anthias 2002), and geography (e.g. Antonsich 2010), belonging has been examined in greater detail. It is primarily applied in two different, yet related, ways: first, as an “emotional attachment, about feeling ‘at home’” (Yuval-Davis 2006, 197); and second, as a formal category in the politics of belonging (e.g. as a citizen of a state, a town; a member of an association), an externally ascribed identifier engendering constructions of inclusion and exclusion. Both dimensions of (non-)belonging exist simultaneously, they may intersect or be mutually affirmative, or they may, on account of the “plurality of scales at which belonging is articulated” (Antonsich 2010, 653), be contradictory and lead to conflict. Belonging may even be perceived as a continuous – although not arbitrary – process of transformation and
change (Strasser 2009; cf. Bell 1999; Fortier 2000). This perspective points beyond the recurring “grand” categories of ethnicity, nationality, or gender, and instead highlights a multitude of parallel belonging/s, along with the complex and often contradictory feelings and politics surrounding chosen and non-chosen belonging/s.
Examining (non-)belonging forces us to look at structural and emotional ties, whether family or age groups, musical genre networks, communities related to queerness or ethnicity, class-based groups, or notions of “home” or place. Belonging/s makes visible the differences among people who have migrated from the same region, even when sharing the same ethnic/national background, and guides the perspective toward interdependences, negations, and contradictions of differentiating categories. In the context of music and migration research, a focus on belonging/s might offer more concise, more specific, and at the same time, more flexible analytical approaches for observing the heterogeneity of (musical) belonging or the performance of non-belonging in music – approaches that may diffuse or even negate ethnic/national ties.
The conference “Music/Migration/Belonging” provides a discursive space to specifically engage with the connections and interdependencies of music, migration, and (non-)belonging/s, with a focus on 21st-century
Europe. We seek to collectively scrutinize the concept of belonging within the realm of music, exploring this as both a challenge and opportunity for music and migration studies. We aim to discuss how belonging as a theoretical perspective can help us grasp the dynamics, intersections, contradictions, and constants in the lives of migrated individuals/groups connected through music, deliberately opening the perspective beyond ethnic/national identities. We welcome ethnographic case studies and/or theoretical and methodological contributions that might explore questions such as:
In what ways do different kinds of music – as sound and as (embodied) social and cultural practice – contribute to emotions and politics of belonging in migratory contexts?
What active role can music – and music discourses – play in creating (non)belonging of individuals and groups?
Which different belongings are relevant for individuals and communities after having migrated or for diasporic groups defined by their ethnic/national background, and how are these articulated musically?
In which interdependent and overlapping ways is/are belonging/s performed in and around music?
How can the concept of belonging contest essentialist discourses of integration and assimilation through musical performances?
How do exclusive or inclusive structures and spaces foster or inhibit different feelings and politics of belonging within different musical spaces, for example, in the music industry, music scenes, or music transmission?
What role do class, gender, sexuality, and ability play in intersection with ethnicity, nationality, race, “home”, and “place” in the context of migration, music and belonging?
How has the ubiquity of technological devices and social media affected experiences of musical (non)belonging in migratory contexts?
We welcome proposals for papers and other types of presentations that engage with the conference theme, including collaborations between musicians and researchers and alternative modes of presenting.
Individual paper presentations must be kept to 30 minutes (20 min. presentation, 10 min. discussion), while other forms of contribution can extend to 30, 45 or 90 minutes (including audience questions and discussion).
In all cases, the author(s) should submit an abstract of max. 300 words and a short biography (max. 150 words). Please also indicate on the proposal the name(s) and contact info of the presenter(s), title, and format of the presentation, 1–5 keywords, and technical requirements (if other than PowerPoint or similar with audio).The conference will be held in English. There is no registration fee.
The deadline for the submission of abstracts is May 15, 2023.
Please send your submission to Tessa Balser-Schuhmann: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notifications of accepted contributions will be issued by the end of May 2023.
Active participation will only be possible on-site; possibilities for live streaming the conference are under consideration.
For any questions regarding the conference, please contact Ass.-Prof. Dr. Anja Brunner: email@example.com
Organizational team: Ass.-Prof. Dr. Anja Brunner, Tessa Balser-Schuhmann, María del Mar Ocaña Guzmán.
The conference is organized within the research project “Women Musicians from Syria: Performance, Networks, Belonging/s after Migration”, funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF (V706-G29), and carried out at the Music and Minorities Research Center (MMRC) at the mdw–University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna. Additional funding is provided by the Department of Folk Music Research and