South Asia and Its Diaspora: Musical Performances in the Cultures of Decolonization




The Horniman Museum and Gardens, 100 London Road, Forest Hill, London, SE23 3PQ,, UK

4 November 2017


Decolonization is a creative process, as well as a historical and political one. Interdisciplinary critical attention to creative processes offers insights into the cultures of decolonization. This conference reflects on these creative processes by focusing on the musical performances of South Asia and its Diaspora. It takes a broad view of musical performances, encompassing auditory experiences in cross-arts projects and sacred expressions. It is hosted in connection with the Horniman Museum’s forthcoming summer series, featuring the diversity of South Asian music, as well as its creative resonances with contemporary culture in the UK. Music, dance, installations and film screenings will highlight creative practices ranging from traditional music to urban electronic experimental projects. In addition, the series will promote community engagement as musicians perform on various instruments housed within the museum. The programme will extend to the centre of Forest Hill – all culminating with a carnival: the Horniman Mela. This conference informs critical listening and thinking around these performance events.
A principal aim is to highlight current research on South Asian and diasporic musical performances, especially in relation to decolonization since 2017 marks 70 years of Indian Independence and the centenary of the abolition of Indian indentureship. Historical, ethnographic and literary perspectives on music are welcomed.
Possible areas for consideration include but are not limited to the following:
• How is traditional practice sustained in the cultures of decolonization?
• What kinds of cross-arts creative innovations emerge from decolonizing relationships between South Asia, the South Asian Diaspora and the UK?
• How do creative exchanges create new performance and listening contexts, and new genres?
• How do external factors shape local performance and consumption, and how do global economic markets and circulations impact on them? How do symphony orchestras and electronic music, for example, shape contemporary South Asian and diasporic practices?
• What kinds of revival processes shape creative expression and instrument building?
• What is the intellectual responsibility of performance-based scholars in engaging with community projects and re-assessing Commonwealth relationships?

Programme Committee
Margaret Birley, Horniman Museum; Dr Maria del Pilar Kaladeen, Centre for Postcolonial Studies, School of Advanced Studies, University of London; Dr Barley Norton, Goldsmiths, University of London.

Potential contributors are invited to submit abstracts of up to 300 words to Margaret Birley via email (attached as a word document) to The deadline for submissions is 10th April. Authors will be notified of their participation by 15th June.

The conference is co-sponsored by the Royal Anthropological Institute. Online booking for the conference will shortly be opening on the Horniman Museum website

Conference registration fee – £20.00
Student registration fee – £10.00
Speakers will not be charged a registration fee.