Welcome to The International Association for the Study of Popular Music UK and Ireland Branch

Jazz and Race, Past and Present

Posted: February 23rd, 2010 | Filed under: Calls for Papers | No Comments »

A conference at The Open University, 11-12 November, 2010

Keynote speaker: Guthrie Ramsey, Professor of Music, University of Pennsylvania and author of Race Music: Black Cultures from Bebop to Hip-Hop (2003).

Emerging at the confluence of diverse streams, the genre we know as jazz was made predominantly by African-Americans for a good deal of its history. Indeed, African-American musicians and critics have often claimed the form as their own, part of their people’s struggle to assert their humanity in the face of a racialised structure of power which would deny it. However, year by year this position grows more difficult to sustain as jazz spreads around the world, and more musicians of other ethnic origins, and who are socially positioned in different ways, enter the field. Often they bring their own distinct musical and cultural resources to bear on the problem of making jazz. Meanwhile, of course, racial oppression persists in western and other societies.

The aims of the conference are to examine, refute or develop this account, and to do so across all the disciplines which touch on jazz. In particular, contributors might want to consider the following themes, or use them as points of departure. We wouldn’t want to be prescriptive though. Any proposal which addresses the problems of jazz and race, past and present is welcomed.

·          The nature and extent of black-ness in jazz in the ‘heroic age’, c1920-1970

·          Global jazz and ethnicities beyond black and white

·          Politics of remembering and not-remembering race

·          The African diaspora outside North America, e.g. black British jazz

·          Nationality and race in jazz

·          Race and the political economy of jazz

·          The ‘integrated’ group and inter-racial relations

·          Racial essentialism and musical hybridity

·          Mediating race and jazz: novels, films, television, new media … .

·          Subject position, objectivity and writing jazz

·          White audiences, black musicians

·          Racialised aesthetics of authenticity, primitivism and the exotic

·          Being and signifying black, white and beyond in jazz

·          Race and policing the borders of jazz

·          Questioning orthodoxies: ‘Swing plus blues’, ‘a natural sense of rhythm’ and so on

·          Prospects for a post-racial jazz

·          Stylistic change and the politics of race

·          Racialising history or telling it like it is? Realism and narratives of race in jazz

·          Race, performance and musical form.


We invite proposals for papers which address these and related questions from across the disciplines including: (ethno)musicology, cultural and media studies, sociology, anthropology, history, literary and performance studies, American studies, film studies. The conference is supported by the AHRC ‘Beyond Text’ research project based at the Open University, What is Black British Jazz? Routes, Ownership, Performance. So contributions which concern issues of jazz and race in Britain are particularly welcome. We should also acknowledge generous support from the ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change.

Proposals for 20 minute papers should be between 150 and 200 words in length. Please send to [email protected] making sure you include the paper title, your name, affiliation, full postal address and email address. Closing date for submission is Friday 2nd July, 2010 .

It’s worth noting that the conference takes place immediately before the London Jazz Festival, and so could be combined with a weekend of great jazz just down the road/line in the capital.

Conference convenors are Catherine Tackley, What is Black British Jazz? The Open University; Jason Toynbee, What is Black British Jazz? The Open University; Tony Whyton, Salford University; Nicholas Gebhardt, Lancaster University.

Supported by AHRC Beyond Text programme and the ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change

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