Contesting Freedoms: A colloquium on post-1994 music studies in South Africa

South Africa celebrates twenty years of democracy in 2014 and this an appropriate time for reflection and debate on the complex new challenges that have emerged in the field of music studies since 1994. These are the result of many changes, including: institutional mergers and realignments, the revision of curricula to reflect cultural diversity and democracy, new critical agendas in musicology and ethnomusicology, the emergence of scholarship that is self-reflexive and sensitive to contexts of production and reception, a rethinking of issues of indigenization and ethnicity, the foregrounding of identity politics, and reflections on the nature of our roles and responsibilities as scholars and creators. There have also been persistent calls for the study of the music itself, the preservation of the conservatory cultural system, and the need to respect the authority and autonomy of individuals and institutions. These diverse and often contrasting positions have resulted in a series of controversies and conflicts both internal to institutions and apparent at academic forums, conferences and in published work. This colloquium reflects on the ways in which these tensions and freedoms are negotiated in current music studies. Presentations are invited on the following themes:

  • The challenges, process and progress of transformation at South African music departments
  • Accountability and transparency in higher education in music
  • Africanization and the recognition of indigenous knowledge systems
  • Musical autonomy and the music itself
  • Authoritarianism and institutionalized power
  • Censorship, intimidation and academic freedom
  • Ethics and academic integrity
  • Critical musicology and the role of critique
  • The place of interdisciplinary music studies
  • Technology and the reshaping of the academic landscape

We invite presentations and participation from all interested parties and stakeholders in the field of music studies in South Africa today.

Keynote speakers:

Achille Mbembe (WITS Institute for Social and Economic Research)
Stephanus Muller (University of Stellenbosch)


Colloquium dates: 27-28 March 2014.
Hosted by: Department of Art History, Visual Arts and Musicology, UNISA, Pretoria.
Cost: R350 includes tea, lunch and a conference booklet.
– Papers: 20 minute presentation/10 minute discussion.
– Roundtable discussions: 1 hour presentation/30 minute discussion.
Proposals: Please submit an abstract of no more than 500 words by 31 August 2013. Presenters will be notified electronically by 31 October 2013.
Submission: Papers to be submitted by 1 March 2014. These will be peer-reviewed and published after the conference.

Please submit all abstracts to:

Information on the colloquium will be made available on the following site:


Thomas Pooley:
Annemie Stimie:


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