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Transposition no 13: Music and right-wing movements

Posted: April 8th, 2024 | Filed under: Calls for Papers | Comments Off on Transposition no 13: Music and right-wing movements

Call for papers, Transposition n°13 (2025): “Music and right-wing movements”
Edited by Júlia Donley, Lambert Dousson and Jason Julliot

The issue 13 of Transposition aims to provide an overview of the relationships between music and right-wing political movements in the contemporary world. 

Exploring and understanding a changing category

The political category of “right-wing” refers to a wide repertoire of practices and ideas whose boundaries are increasingly difficult to define: from the defense of free economic competition to the protection of cultural exceptions and national identities; from the demand for authority and security to the preservation of social order and traditional or religious values (Camus 2001; Faria Carvalho and Andrade De Oliveira Paiva 2022). A polymorphous phenomenon, the right-wing manifests its plasticity through the normalization of the extreme right, which, when not in power, manages to integrate its agenda into so-called moderate right-wing governments, and even the programs of certain left-wing parties, thereby blurring the boundaries and definitions of these political categories. Following these observations, researchers are working to understand the heterogeneity of political movements that identify themselves or that they identify as right-wing and prefer plurality to its unification (Bob 2012; Rydgen 2018; François 2022).

In addition to the difficulty of classification, we have recently seen a significant dynamism in right-wing political movements around the world. In many countries (Brazil, Argentina, India, Israel, Poland, Italy, USA…), the electoral victories and governmental experiments of the far right have resulted in a range of legislative and administrative measures affecting public services (education, justice, health, research, employment) and redistributive policies as much as the rights and freedoms of women and LGBT+ people, immigrants, and foreigners (Bob 2012).

As a social fact, music is not simply a spectator of these political fluctuations, but actively participates in the social fabric by reflecting and influencing the dynamics of the social world. Studying the relationship between music and political power, music history and musicology has built up a substantial body of knowledge on music under right-wing political regimes. These investigations have focused on the effects of authoritarian, nationalist and fascist regimes on musical worlds throughout the twentieth century. Documenting French musical life under the German Occupation (Simon 2009; Chimènes and Simon 2013; Brohm and Petit 2019) or in Fascist Italy (Ginot-Slacik 2019), Jewish musicians subjected to the Nazi death machine (Gilbert 2005; Giner 2011 ; Petit 2018), musical creation under Franco’s regime in Spain (Contreras Zubillaga 2021) or the condition of artists in authoritarian and/or dictatorial regimes in Chile (Aedo 2015), Argentina (Buch 2016) or Brazil (Chernavsky 2019), researchers have analyzed the processes of ideological and administrative control of power in places of training and dissemination (musical organizations and institutions, recording and radio companies), the processes by which musical production is brought to heel through various mechanisms (more or less direct guidance of programming, censorship and even torture), and the paths followed by individuals (executioners and collaborators, victims and witnesses, resisters and opportunists).

Several important publications have also focused on the socio-musical practices of extreme right-wing minority movements (Collectif 2004; Chevarin 2013; Thomas 2020), or on the effects of musical creation on the “culture war” waged by conservative movements from the 1980s onwards in Ronald Reagan’s United States, invoking economic as well as religious and moral grounds to reduce or stop public subsidies for cultural institutions (Robin 2012). These conservative reactions to “subcultures”, such as reggae, heavy metal and punk, and their “countercultural” effects have also been analyzed through the notion of “moral panic” (Hebdige 1979; Janisse and Corupe 2015).

Today, already weakened by neoliberal policies that have led governments to an increasing use of private operators rather than direct public support (Robin 2012 ; OECD 2022), the worlds of culture and artistic creation are regularly confronted either with the delegitimization of their productions, criticized as elitist in the name of a certain conception of the democratization of culture (Métais-Chastanier 2015), or with forms of censorship and prejudice on the grounds of offending religion, morality, or being part of a so-called “woke” ideology (Mahoudeau, 2022) focused on themes linked to sexual or gender identities and critical race theory: hence the degradation of works, withdrawal of books or recordings from libraries, bookshops and record stores, cancellation or interruption of exhibitions, theatrical performances and concerts (Dupuis-Déri 2022; Murat 2022).

While some players and structures in the music world may be confronted with the actions of right-wing activists or suffer from the public policies implemented by this political field, others actively support them. In some cases, musicians focus their works on values and themes dear to the far-right, such as the French rock bands In memoriam, Fraction or Les Brigandes. They can also refer to nationalist imaginaries and symbols in their lyrics, as Jason Aldean in the United States or numerous Norwegian black metal groups since the 1990s. In other situations, right-wing parties can use and instrumentalize non-professional productions, as in the case of Olivier Anthony, an American farmer from the state of Virginia, who heard his music broadcast on Fox News as the opening track of the first Republican primary debate in 2023. Finally, when we consider the relations between right-wing and religious actors, there are examples such as the actions by French fundamentalist Catholics from the far-right movement Civitas to prevent a concert of the composer and organist Kali Malone that was supposed to take place inside a church, or the support of the neo-Pentecostal group Renascer Praise to the former Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro.

In this context, how and to what extent can music help to shed light on a political category characterized by its mutability? If music is both an aesthetic and a social phenomenon that can contribute to our understanding of the world, is there a specifically musical way of thinking about and defining the political category of the right?

A multidimensional look at music and right-wing movements

This issue of Transposition aims to shift the often Western-centric perspective on the right-wing movements around the world. There are no geographical limits to the research contributions, since the goal of this issue is to explore the “rightization” of music in different contexts and countries, including for example Japan, Brazil, Italy, India, Mali, Russia, New Zealand or Switzerland. The editors are particularly interested in contributions that might examine international and transnational circulation of ideologies and practices (Cowan 2021). Similarly, there are no restrictions on musical genres that may be analyzed in the articles. However, given the number and diversity of musical phenomena linked to the right since the beginning of the 21st century, which are still relatively unexplored, contributions should focus on contemporary events and the mutations in the genealogy of relations between music and the right.

With a view to questioning the contribution of music to the evolution of right-wing ways of thinking and acting, and vice versa, proposals may focus as much on actors as on institutions, as well as on the aesthetic scope of artistic productions. More specifically, we look forward to articles focus on:

  • artists, authors, composers or performers;
  • their audiences;
  • intermediaries involved in the production, recording, programming and dissemination of live or recorded music;
  • public or private institutions that train musicians, produce, host or finance artistic activities;
  • the aesthetic implications of political commitments to or against right-wing movements: can we speak of “right-wing” music?

How to submit

Proposals, in French, English or Spanish (~1500-2500 characters including spaces but excluding bibliography), must be submitted by 15 May 2024 to the following email: [email protected]. Authors will receive editorial decisions by 1 June 2024.

Full articles (5000 – 7000 words) must be submitted for peer-review by 1 October 2024. In addition to scientific contributions to the thematic dossier, subject to approval by the scientific committee, Transposition is open to other themes for its Varia section (see https://journals.openedition.org/transposition).

Transposition is an interdisciplinary peer-reviewed journal, supported and co-published by the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) and the Cité de la musique – Philharmonie de Paris.

Transposition considers music and sound research at the intersection of the humanities and social sciences, in particular through the exploration of cross-disciplinary themes. Addressing the significance of music in the understanding of human societies, the journal seeks to examine how societies conceive, establish and stage their musical, sonic and listening practices. Transposition promotes open research, publishing original articles, commentaries and reviews in open access under the Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/). A member of OpenEdition Journals, Transposition is indexed in the Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale (RILM) and the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).