The Impact Of Ethnomusicology






in association with



The winter one-day conference of the British Forum for Ethnomusicology

will be held at The Institute of Musical Research, part of the School of

Advanced Study at the University of London.  The theme for the day will be

‘The Impact of Ethnomusicology’.

‘Impact’ is both a buzz-word and a bête noire in British higher education

at present. Scholars in publicly-funded institutions are increasingly

being asked to assess the influence of their research outside of the

academy, and this applies just as much to ethnomusicologists employed in

such institutions as to others.

Nevertheless, perhaps more than any other part of the music studies field,

the public-facing nature of ethnomusicology, and its emphasis on

participation and social experience, on understanding musical

‘being-in-the-world’ as Jeff Todd Titon puts it, has ensured that

ethnomusicologists have usually been very mindful of their relationship to

those around them, and of the consequences their work might have. Rather

than simply responding to political imperatives, therefore, we instead

want to use this conference to reflect on the consequences of our work,

for good and for ill, in the wider world; and, building on a long

disciplinary tradition of self scrutiny and re-invention, to consider what

this tells us about ethnomusicology, and how it might help us position and

develop the discipline in the rapidly changing times in which we find


The following broadly-conceived questions that we might address are

offered merely as starting points:

•In what ways, and over what kinds of timescales, have ethnomusicologists

impacted on the people with whom they work, and the environments in which

that work takes place? How might the impact of such work be evaluated or

valorised beyond ‘conventional’ ethnomusicological outputs?

•Is ethnomusicological impact usually positive–or at least benign–or are

there clear instances of negative consequences?  How might one construe

the negative impact of ethnomusicology, and should such work necessarily

be avoided?

•How does the notion of impact overlap with disciplinary considerations

of applied ethnomusicology?

•When does ethnomusicology become so applied – that is, in its

engagements with social issues or its advocacy on behalf of particular

culture bearers – that it calls into question the boundaries of

conventional scholarship and supposed scholarly distance?

•To what extent should scholarly organisations such as BFE proactively

engage with organisations such as WOMAD or South Asian Arts, and what is

the relationship between such engagements and other forms of research?

•To what extent does the impact of ethnomusicology define the discipline,

or to what extent should it be allowed to do so?

•Notwithstanding that current discourses around impact tend to focus on

social and cultural consequences outside of the academy, how has the

development of ethnomusicology impacted upon the academy as a whole, or

any of its constituent parts, particularly in areas far removed from

cognate disciplines such as music or anthropology?

Potential contributors are invited to submit abstracts of up to 300 words

to the administrator of the IMR, Valerie James, preferably via email

(, or by post to:

Valerie James


Institute of Musical Research

School of Advanced Study

University of London

Senate House

Malet Street

London WC1E 7HU

Queries relating to the theme of day or the BFE may be addressed to the

conference convenor, Dr Stephen Cottrell (

The deadline for submissions is 1st September 2010, and contributors will

be advised by mid September.

Further information on the conference will be uploaded on the BFE website

as it becomes available: