Sensing Colonial Ports and Global History: Agency, Affect, Temporality


CALL FOR PAPERS [Deadline: 4 February 2019]


Sensing Colonial Ports and Global History: Agency, Affect, Temporality

2 May (full day) and 3 May (half day) 2019

TORCH, The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities

University of Oxford


Keynote Speakers:

Leila Fawaz (History, Tufts University)

Benjamin Walton (Music, University of Cambridge)


Sensing Colonial Ports and Global History is an interdisciplinary two-day conference organised by the Colonial Ports and Global History (CPAGH) Network in TORCH Oxford ( Its aim is to cross-examine three key concepts – agency, affect and temporality – that are increasingly central to anthropological, historical, musicological and sociological thought about colonial port cities. In doing so, it also explores anew the implications of the ‘colonial port city’ for global history, both in and beyond the academy.

Within this framework, the conference will centre around three main concerns. The first relates to issues of agency and power, notably the ways in which actors and institutions interacted with different connections and connectors, as well as with disruptions and disruptors. On the one hand, we seek to further the critical study of colonial power and power relations between port cities. Taking into consideration the five ‘scapes’ Arjun Appadurai (1990) has identified for narrating patterns of globalisation, we also seek explorations of the ways in which colonial power demonstrated itself in different port cities. On the other hand, we seek, too, to move beyond the study of colonial ports as a tool to explain connections, and to examine port cities in their own right, thereby highlighting hitherto understudied voices, and uncovering new perspectives on connections and disruptions. In other words, we seek to explore how people in port cities variously experienced, navigated, negotiated as well as expressed in local vocabularies what ‘global’ connections and the ‘colonial port city’ were and meant in their everyday lives.

Second, the conference will highlight the role of senses in researching colonial histories. Taking our cue from Hearing History (Smith 2004), what does it mean to not only tune but also sense into an extended, yet uneven geography of colonial ports? The interconnectedness of these global hubs can detract from their significance as nodes shaped locally, and translocally, by an extensive range of affective registers. Their distinct performativities, listening practices and multi-sensory environments, for example – coupled with the various ways in which such registers are (not) documented, experienced and/or contested – raise intriguing questions about the role of the senses both within and across the colonial ports, and their implications for rethinking the so-called globality of the colonial ports. Furthermore, how might these ports – when ‘sensed’ as nodal cultures – more broadly inform the re/writing of global history with their particular affective registers?                                                         

Last but not least, we hope to bridge between new research on time, temporality and global history. The weight of historical inquiry on time has fallen heavily on Western Europe, where imperial expansion and advanced production and communication technologies revolutionised time-keeping practices and temporal habits. As the movement to regulate time across nations, empires end hemispheres grew stronger, it came into conflict with maritime as well as local regional temporalities that had been associated with the community, religion, environment, seasonal cycles and the sea regimes. Situated at the crossroads between local cultures and the increasingly regulated temporal regimes applied to trade and governance, port cities represent spaces that can facilitate and reveal tensions in the global transformation of time. How did the emerging rhythms of work and civic life in port cities come into contact with the existing ideas and practices of time? How was time negotiated between the increasing pressure of standardisation, and the environmentally and socially-embedded temporal traditions? To what extent did multiple understandings of time create a virtual spatio-temporal dissociation between port cities and their hinterland? Participants are encouraged to explore these questions, as well as connections and exchanges between temporal cultures that emerged in various port cities in the era of European imperialism.

We are delighted to have two distinguished keynote speakers: Leila Fawaz, Issam M. Fares Chair of Lebanese & Eastern Mediterranean Studies at Tufts University, whose broad expertise encompasses migration, trade and war in the modern Middle East;and Benjamin Walton, Senior Lecturer in Music at the University of Cambridge, whose rich expertise extends from touring opera troupes beyond Europe to the globalisation of opera in and beyond the nineteenth century.  

Scholars working in Anthropology, History, Musicology, Sociology and other related disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences, who are interested in presenting at the conference, are asked to send an abstract of 250–400 words and a brief (1–2 page) CV to by Monday, 4 February 2019. We strongly encourage submissions from researchers from underrepresented backgrounds. Co-authored papers (with no more than two speakers) are also welcome.  

Symposium and Workshop: South African Opera Productions after the Apartheid

Venue: Universität Bayreuth

Date:   18th– 19th October 2018

Call for Papers:

Deadline: 15th August 2018

With the end of the Apartheid era, opera – stigmatized as ‘eurocentric opera’ – became a symbol of Western dominance/colonial imposition and seemed to be dead in South Africa.

But in fact, especially the so called ‘indigenous opera’ ‘flourishes’ as something of an anachronism and can be assessed as ‘black empowerment’ (Naomi André 2018).

The writing of a historiography of opera productions in South Africa although has academically just shortly started (Donato Somma 2016; Hilde Roos 2013, 2010; Martina Viljoen 2006) and is confronted with problems of different natures: political structures, post-colonization, globalization, unstable artistic standards and institutional relations.

The ‘bloom’ of opera presents itself neither through regular performances nor through crowded theatre halls. This is a consequence of the difficult political relations of artistic production in South Africa, which are among others characterized by a lack of funding and the re-organization of the Performing Arts Councils/ National Arts Councils. The existing significant multiple theatricalities of South Africa are thereby not having a platform to present themselves. The market pressure results often in overseas productions financing the few performances in the country itself. Thereby putting itself on risk to confirm with their opera productions transferred expectations of a South African identity rather than expressing an ‘authentic’ one.

This symposium will focus on South African Opera productions. Thereby the aim of the symposium is to represent the plurality of artistic concepts that deal in different ways with the multiple challenges of political and social transformation. How can opera in South Africa be involved in the process of societal transformation in a post-apartheid society? Which new artistic concepts are needed? How does themes for the libretti change? How did language, the style of composition and orchestration transform? Which new locations for performances are found to involve new audiences? How did the aesthetics change? And how are new media used either for a new aesthetic of performances, as with e.g. ‘Lamento’ (Umculo) or ‘U-Carmen eKhayelitsha’ (Isango Ensemble), or for marketing purposes?

For the first day of the symposium presentations shall focus on one opera productions. To ‘map’ the plurality of the field presentations are invited that cover one of the following topics.

  1. South African opera productions
  • Operas of different opera companies and composers
  • Different locations of opera performances (opera house, township, film)
  • Aesthetics of the opera opus itself
  • Analysis of compositions, libretti & performances

With Prof. Dr. Naomi André (University Michigan, USA), Dr. Donato Somma (University of Witwatersrand, SA) and Dr. Lena van der Hoven (among others) some experts in the field are invited. They will present on ‘Winnie – The Opera’ (Bongani Ndodana-Breen), ‘Princess Magogo’ (Opera Africa, Mzilikazi Khumalo), ‘Heart of Redness’ (Cape Town Opera, Neo Muyanga) and ‘Romeo’s Passion’ (Umculo, Cathy Milliken).

The workshop on the second day will cover transformation processes of Opera production in South Africa focusing on the following topics:

  • Opera institutions & opera companies
  • Finances/ Funding
  • Audiences
  • Marketing
  • Political impact

Abstracts (max. 2000 characters) for 20 minutes papers along with the technical requirements for the talk and a short CV with contact details should be sent by 15th August 2018 to Lena van der Hoven ( Contributions from both the humanities and social sciences are welcome (Musicology, Theatre Studies, History, Cultural Studies, Sociology). Early career researchers in particular are encouraged to contribute. The chosen speakers will be informed by 31th August 2018 and the conference programme published online at .



Work & Play: Economies of Music

Work & Play: Economies of Music

The Harvard Graduate Music Forum Conference    •    20–21 February 2015

Keynote:  Robin James (UNC Charlotte)

Round Table:  Verena Andermatt Conley, Robin James, Sindhumathi Revuluri, Kay Kaufman Shelemay


– Call for Proposals –

This interdisciplinary conference takes as its premise that music is inseparable from the economic conditions of its production and consumption. Through presentations, lecture-recitals and composers’ colloquia, we seek to explore the intersections of music and economics from a diverse array of perspectives including labor, practice, material culture, and capital.

Questions include but are not limited to:

  • How do musicians and their employers understand musical labor, and how does this impinge on issues of amateurism, professionalism, and institutionalization?
  • How have shifting economic systems — for instance, from patronage to mass consumption, or from liberalism to neoliberalism — altered the place of music in society?
  • How have issues such as postcolonialism, the North-South economic divide, and globalization, intersected with various musical practices to forge divergent models of economies of music?
  • Where does music succeed and where does it fail in transforming economic relations?
  • What are the economic consequences of the material means of musics’ dissemination, such as manuscripts, published scores, phonograph recordings, streaming and live performance?
  • How do questions of cultural and economic capital combine in appraisals and contestations of musical value?
  • How has music symbolically represented economics and status? What is music’s role in this endeavour today?

– Submissions –

We welcome submissions from current graduate students on these and related topics. We seek proposals on all repertoires, musical practices and historical periods, and representing a broad set of methodologies. Formats for presentation include:

  • 20-minute papers, audiovisual presentations, or exploratory text works, with 10 minutes for discussion
    Please submit abstracts of a maximum of 350 words and, where appropriate, up to 4 additional pages for figures. Please add a short statement regarding AV requirements.
  • 30-minute composer colloquia, performances, or lecture-recitals, with 15 minutes for discussion
    Please submit details of the work to be presented in a maximum of 350 words and, where appropriate, links to relevant sound recordings and/or scores or supplementary documentation.

Deadline for proposals: 5 December 2014

Please e-mail submissions to:

For more information please visit: