Department of Music

Back Page

Popular Music and National Culture
Ljubljana, November 2000


Call for Papers: Popular Music and National Culture
Ljubljana, Slovenia, November 23-25, 2000


The Slovene branch of IASPM, Drustvo za raziskovanje popularne glasbe and
ISH, Faculty of Postgraduate Studies in Humanities, announces an
international conference on Popular Music and National Culture.

"National culture" may have been a special obsession in Central Europe
where it is difficult for any kind of popular music not to define itself
vis-a-vis the nation as its embodiment, its opponent or an escape from it.
But the discussions about relationships between "popular" culture and
"national" culture were also revived in Eastern Europe by the fall of the
Berlin Wall.

There has also been an issue of cultural currents after the collapse of
grand narratives.  The "indigenisation" of popular culture, including
popular music, is a global phenomenon.  We must not consider the concept
of "global" vs. "local" as an abstraction, but within specific regional
situations concerning accumulation or deprivation of capital, preferential
or limited access to "global" media and so on.  There are many more
options in a dynamic cultural system than dealing only with a particular
local scene.  One of the options is "national culture".  Although both
terms are fuzzy, there are many reasons to conceptualise their matrix.  
In which cases do "cultural" and "national" fit, and in which cases don't
they overlap?  We must not miss political dimensions of the concept of
"national" neither in its "cultural" (national language and culture) nor
in its political/legal ("grand nation") meaning.

The concept of "national" is going through the process of revival in both
positive and negative ways.  It can function as a cohesive factor of group
identity which transcends the feeling of belonging to a particlar local
scene. However, it can also become a factor of "nationalism" in a cultural
and political way (e.g., Nazi bands).  Popular music is far from being
innocent in the events after 1989 in the former Yugoslavia and Soviet
Union.  The political situation in Austria reminds us that the "national"
is far from being obsolete in the European Union.

Popular music has always been in specific relation to "national" culture.
There are many labels being used, like spaghetti rock, austropop,
kraut-rock, britt-pop, yugo-rock, French chanson, Italian canzona, etc.  
Many "national" streams of popular music are based on use of a "national"
language, promoted by "national" mass media and "national" record labels.  
In many cases, "national" production of popular music is prohibited by
their demanded "quotas" in media.  Nation-states invest in "national"
music productions, including popular music.

We also have to consider aesthetic dimensions of "national" music
production in terms of "authenticity" vs. artificiality of "cultural
imperialism" (which is now replaced with the magic spell of
"MacDonaldization").  And, finally, we have to consider use of the term
"nation" in self-characterisations like "Woodstock nation", "raving
nation", "MTV nation" and even radical hip-hop expressions of the "nation
of Islam".

That is why to take "national culture" as a prism for the refraction of
relationships between the local and the global and their thoretical
reflection is a challenge for scholars from both "dominant" parts of the
world and the "dominated" regions.

Although the concept of "national culture" is an abstract, imagined and
permanently evolving matrix, it can be a perfect means to reestablish new
relations between the "global" and the "local" on various levels.  It
strongly recommends interdisciplinary analytical approach.

The organisers invite researchers and students in sociology,
(ethno)musicology, social and cultural anthropology, cultural and media
studies, languages, philosophers and others to send their proposals - in
no more than 30 lines, deadline: June 30, 2000 - to the following
addresses:

Rajko Mursic
Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology
University of Ljubljana
P. O. Box 580
SI-1001 Ljubljana
Slovenia
e-mail: rajko.mursic@guest.arnes.si

or

Joze Vogrinc
Department of Sociology
Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana
Askerceva 2
SI-1000 Ljubljana
Slovenia
e-mail: joze.vogrinc@ff.uni-lj.si