Call for Papers

Black Lives Matter: Music, Race, and Justice
Harvard Graduate Music Forum Annual Conference
February 3–4, 2017
Matthew D. Morrison, Ph.D., keynote lecturer
Imani Uzuri, keynote/performer

This interdisciplinary music conference seeks to interrogate the place of music, musicians, and sound in light of the Black Lives Matter movement and the crises to which it responds. In the midst of calls for an end to police brutality, the carceral state, and anti-Black discrimination, music studies must join the ongoing conversation interrogating understood relationships between protest, activism, and academic praxis. 

Given that representational media harbor the potential for violent and voyeuristic reproduction as well as for protest, how can we expand our understanding of music as a political tool? In an age of mass incarceration and police brutality, what are the stakes of a musical allyship that transcends mere documentation and instead establishes a sustainable basis for structural progress at the level of praxis? How can music studies redress historical biases, racial discrimination, and cultural elitism within its own ranks, and in so doing inculcate solidarity with those fighting for Black lives? What are the preconditions for a musical discourse and creative praxis grounded in principled resistance and radical change?

Open to scholars and practitioners working in and through a multiplicity of disciplinary perspectives — music studies, critical race studies, history, sociology, art and art history, and public policy — this conference will agitate toward a reconceptualization of the sonic in relation to Black Lives Matter’s political imperatives. We invite abstracts for presentations of scholarly and creative work that address themes that may include, but are not limited to:

  • The Black Lives Matter Movement
  • Sonic Violence, Crowd Control, and Protest 
  • Black Music Criticism
  • Popular Music, Commercialization, and the Role of Celebrity 
  • Cultural Production, Appropriation, and Racial Impersonation
  • Music, Torture, and Incarceration
  • Civil and Human Rights
  • Canon(s), Curricula, and the Diversification of Academia

We especially welcome submissions from student-scholars from underrepresented backgrounds, as well as those based at historically Black and minority-majority institutions. We envision a capacious view of scholarship; those affiliated with not-for-profit, activist, and public organizations that challenge and redefine the role of academic research are particularly encouraged to submit.

Submissions for traditional conference-style papers should consist of a title and abstract of around 350 words. Those delivering papers should plan to do so in 20 minutes, leaving 10 minutes for questions and discussion. If you wish to submit diagrams or figures alongside your abstract you are encouraged to do so, bearing in mind that attachments should be of manageable size for the purposes of dissemination during the abstract review process.
Composers or performers are also encouraged to submit. In lieu of an abstract you may include a description of your creative work and its relevance for the conference theme, alongside scores and/or recordings.
Please include in your submission your name and institutional or organizational affiliation, if any.
Email your submission to
The deadline for submissions is Monday, November 28, 2016, at 11:59pm EST.
This conference is made possible by the generous support of the Department of Music, the Department of African and African American Studies, and the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University.

Click the following link for a PDF version of the Call for Papers:
BlackLivesMatterHarvard2017.pdf59 KB