CFP: POPVision, The U2 Conference 2018, Belfast

The U2 Conference

June 13-15 2018
Belfast, Northern Ireland

U2: POPVision 2018

Call for Presentations: Papers, Panels, Posters, Performances and Chairs

The U2 Conference, in partnership with The Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice, Queen’s University, and Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, will meet 13-15 June 2018 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, for academic and general audience sessions on the theme U2: POPVision. The conference is open to all scholars, critics, teachers, students, composers, performers and fans, and invites all disciplinary interests to explore the music, work and influence of U2, giving particular attention to U2’s Pop era of 1997-98 from a perspective some 20 years on. All modes of presentation are welcomed, with a deadline for all proposals of December 15, 2017.

As a conference theme, U2: POPVision invites investigating, articulating and critiquing the guiding aesthetic, musical, political, theological, gendered, material and cultural visions specific to U2’s Popera of 1997-98 for their efficacy then and now, as well as welcoming an examination of popular music’s power to cast visions that shape its own narrative and help construct and complicate larger cultural conversations, in which U2’s visions have long been engaged.

U2 continues to wrestle with themes of innocence and experience, thus the conference is looking back 20 years to the Pop era that held both in tension. In addition to exploring U2’s Pop era in the context of popular culture’s ongoing story, U2: POPVision indicates the conference’s belief that Popera contradictions, re-mix cultures, appeals for plurality and inclusivity speak as loudly in 2018 as some 20 years ago. U2: POPVision presumes a subversion and celebration of excess and a dance of the serious and superficial are necessary for compelling engagements with topics affecting large, diverse populations.

Pop was an album incorporating techno, electronic and dance influences in its production, dark political and personal reflections in its lyrics, and glossy Pop Art homages in its visual presentation. The PopMart tour brought a giant disco lemon to every continent except Antarctica, was the first major concert in Sarajevo after the war, and included by its end a statement of support for the campaign for Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement (GFA), signed April 10, 1998. As Belfast will mark in 2018 the 20th anniversary of the GFA – a major step as a peaceful agreement to seek non-violent resolutions to many conflicts in Northern Ireland – the conference theme U2: POPVisionfurther communicates the interest in studying how U2’s artistic visions help or hinder peace building, resolving personal and societal conflicts, and envisioning a more just, equitable and joyful world. An important theme of the conference is thus the wider relationship between music, art and peacebuilding.

Everything POP – Pop Art, pop culture, populism, popularity – and all the contradictions resolved or left unresolved in U2’s most controversial album are under review in the context of POPVision, a way of seeing that has revealed itself across U2’s career as satirical and playful (as in ZooTV’s “I have a vision – television!”), evocative (No Line on the Horizon’s “vision over visibility”), and politically aware (which invites comparison to the aisling, or vision poems, of 17th – 18th century Ireland, as well as romantic, ecstatic or apocalyptic writings throughout history).

We will pursue understanding the U2: POPVision across U2’s career and across culture as a whole, examining music, commerce, theology, sociology, the visual arts, politics, and much more. We ask questions including, but not limited to:

  • How is U2’s PopVision central to and in tension with 21st century sensibilities, rapid messaging, social media practices and cultures of performance?
  • How does U2’s POPVision account for personal, inner-personal and societal border blurring, expressions of faith and doubt, and reckonings with privilege, alienation, and fragmentation of the 1990s and some 20 years on?
  • What musicological insights are to be gained from U2’s Pop album foray into the techno, electronic and dance spheres?
  • Was U2’s incorporation of EDM elements a form of cultural appropriation or a reflection of a genuine influence and love of them?
  • How should Pop be regarded in the U2 catalog? As one of their best albums? A mistake or failed experiment? Was it a necessary step for U2? Etc.
  • In what ways is Pop underrated or critically successful compared to other records of the time?
  • How much of the “pop” aesthetic of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and related artists did U2 absorb and employ? How did U2’s use of this imagery relate to the initial emergence of the Pop Art movement? Did U2’s Pop Art homages stand in contrast to the album’s content? Did Pop Art’s spiritual overtones and pathos find commonality with U2’s long running themes?
  • What stagecraft techniques, statements, and complications did the PopMart Tour employ and create, and to what ends?
  • How did (and how has) Bono performed an exploration of identity and the plasticity of personas, and the related connections between the superficial and the serious?
  • How have fandom practices influenced the reception of Pop, and how do fans use the album to articulate their stance on U2?
  • How do fans show their agreement or disagreement with U2’s oft stated claim that Pop was an unfinished album?
  • What suggestions do fans, critics and scholars have today for “finishing” Pop?

More broad-based U2-related topics will also be considered.

See here for Pop’s discography, lyrics, videography and related information.

See here for information on U2’s PopMart Tour.

See here for the U2 Studies Bibliography.

Individual presenters should submit all in one Word document: a paper title; a 300-word abstract; presenter information including full name, institutional affiliation/independent scholar/student status; contact information; and, one-page listing credentials and recent publications, presentations or other notable activities. Individual paper presentations should be about 15 minutes long.

Panel proposals should specify either three or four presenters and should be designed to finish in about 60 minutes. Panel proposals should submit all in one Word document: a title for the panel; the name of the panel chair; a 200-word abstract describing the panel’s purpose and theme; a 200-word abstract for each presentation on the panel; presenter information for each panel member, including full name, institutional affiliation/independent scholar/student status; contact information; and, one-page listing credentials and recent publications, presentations or other notable activities for each presenter. 

Poster display presentations should submit all in one Word document: a title for the poster; a 150-word statement explaining the thesis for the presentation and the method(s) of demonstration on the poster; the anticipated size of the poster; presenter information including full name, institutional affiliation/independent scholar/student status; contact information; and, one-page listing credentials and recent publications, presentations or other notable activities. An image may be placed in the Word document to help demonstrate elements of the poster.

Performances or other creative presentations should submit all in one Word document: a title for the presentation; a 150-word statement explaining the thesis for the presentation and the method(s) of demonstration; the anticipated duration for the performance, size of space needs, technical support needs, etc., presenter(s) information including full name, institutional affiliation/independent scholar/student status; contact information; and, one-page listing credentials and recent publications, presentations or other notable activities.

We welcome proposals not fitting into the above categories. Please ask for submission advice. 

Delegates who also wish to chair a session not their own should also submit a separate Word document including full name, institutional affiliation/independent scholar/student status; contact information; and, one-page listing credentials and recent publications, presentations or other notable activities.

The deadline for all proposal materials is December 15, 2017. Submit all proposals to U2Con2018proposals@gmail.com. Every effort will be made to notify all who submit a proposal of its status by January 15, 2018. Registration for the conference will open February 1, 2018 and all presenters are expected to pay the registration fee.

Program Selection Committee:

  • Scott Calhoun, Ph.D., Department of English, Literature and Modern Languages, Cedarville University, Ohio, USA
  • David Comay, Independent Scholar, USA
  • Jonathan Hodgers, Ph.D., Department of Music, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
  • Sherry Lawrence, @U2 Staff, USA
  • Áine Mangaoang, Ph.D., Department of Musicology, University of Oslo, Norway
  • Angela Pancella, Independent Scholar, @U2 Staff Emeritus, USA
  • Rev. Steve Stockman, Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, Belfast, NI
  • Christopher Wales, Ph.D., Gimlekollen School of Journalism and Communication, NLA University College, Kristiansand, Norway
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