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Rock, Activism and Liberation (1950-2020)

Rock, engagements et émancipations (1950-2020)

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Published on Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Abstract

The objective of this conference is to take a closer look at the various forms of activism and empowerment of rock and contemporary music performers, through their work, their positions and their career, focusing in particular on activism based on a desire for liberation and in opposition to ideological, social, economic, cultural or religious norms. These topics will be addressed within a broad chronology, from the aftermath of the Second World War to the present day, through all types of music that fall within the loose definition of "rock", and on the basis of deliberately interdisciplinary approach.

Announcement

Université de Rouen Normandie, GRHis - Le 106

12-14 March 2025

Organisation

International conference organised by Jean-Christophe Aplincourt, Pascal Dupuy and Joann Élart

Argument

In the collective consciousness, Woody Guthrie (1912-1967) represents the embodiment of a musician fighting social and economic injustices. One of the most renowned singers of the first half of the twentieth-century, Guthrie, in a testament to his conviction of the power of music and lyrics, inscribed on his guitar, "This machine kills fascists." John Steinbeck even associated him with the spirit of freedom and resistance that animates the American people. The reality, as revealed to us by his biographers, suggests a musician whose progressive ideological commitment needs to be partially tempered. Nevertheless, despite his ambiguities, he represents a singer who, through his words, courageously expressed his convictions against oppression and in favor of freedom of expression. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly for rock fans, he was the artist who inspired Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen in the United States and Joe Strummer (known as Woody during his pre-Clash years) in the United Kingdom, three emblematic figures of the politically engaged musician of the last third of the twentieth century. Similarly, though more discreetly, there have been a number of bands / singer-songwriters who have displayed support for right-wing and/or extremist ideologies. A tradition of political commitment from various ideological perspectives animates rock music and can be traced back to individual charismatic musicians from the past. This tradition is constantly being reified, renewed, and reshaped by new generations of musicians.

Political activism in songs is obviously not a new phenomenon. From the ballads of the Middle Ages through to the songwriters of the nineteenth and twentieth-centuries, various crises (wars, revolts, uprisings, revolutions) inspired the creation of music that was like a weapon, utilized by activists and feared by authorities. Rock music and all its variations have also never been immune from political discourse, even if in the case of a genre born in the early 50s, it has occasionally appeared naïve or rather superficial. Similarly, in recent decades this political awareness has been transformed into a device for empowerment, raising awareness on many fronts, from the defense of a number of major environmental causes to the fight against sexual, social, political and economic injustice on a global scale

The objective of this conference is to take a closer look at the various forms of activism and empowerment of rock and contemporary music performers, through their work, their positions and their career, focusing in particular on activism based on a desire for liberation and in opposition to ideological, social, economic, cultural or religious norms. These topics will be addressed within a broad chronology, from the aftermath of the Second World War to the present day, through all types of music that fall within the loose definition of "rock", and on the basis of deliberately interdisciplinary approach. Proposals from historians, sociologists, musicologists and political scholars are particularly welcome. Proposals must address one of the following predefined topics:

Theme 1. Creation, activism and emancipation

At its inception, rock music was decidedly apolitical. However, beginning with the political turmoil of the 1960s and continuing to the present, bands and singer-songwriters have tackled controversial topics and engaged actively in the cultural conflicts, social causes, and political battles of their day. The papers in this section will interrogate the positions adopted by musicians through their statements, music, and activism with regard to contemporary controversial issues; artists who became generational spokespersons; and music and musicians that became counter-cultural touchstones.

Theme 2. Promoting activism

Papers in this section will focus on venues for music and activism. More specifically, papers will address concerts and festivals as platforms for promoting activism and expressing empowerment, and solidarity. These spaces of communion brought together artists and their audiences in support of particular causes and shared values.

Theme 3. Activism and protest

The second aspect of public activism involves protest concerts and rallies. In addition to humanitarian causes, artists can also take part in major protest events. The artists' notoriety helps to publicize the struggle or to legitimize their beliefs to a wider community. In addition to the organization of these events, the causes and the role of the artists - a whole range of issues that could be the subject of communications - this section welcome papers on international organizations (UNICEF, UN, Amnesty International, etc.) for whom these major media concerts become an extraordinary mass communication tool and a means of federating or attracting new supporters.

Theme 4. Empowerment and cultural sector

What are the effects of a song or concert on personal liberation? How does one become involved in supporting a cause and how is the activism of an artist and/or their audience generated? Does the cultural sector promote these emancipatory impulses or, on the contrary, does it seek to normalize, appropriate or erase them? 

This section will address issues relating to radio, television, cinema, the press, record companies, social networks, advertising, etc. In an attempt to gauge the attitudes of the above to activism and empowerment, the following questions are amongst the many that can be asked: how does the cultural sector serve a cause or, on the contrary, manipulate it? What role have records companies played in the ideological disputes that emerged over the last fifty years.

Theme 5. SMAc and emancipation: assessment and current situation

The Scènes de Musiques Actuelles (live music venues) were created by a mix of players and by public authorities, and are dedicated to a variety of practices (concerts, rehearsals, creation, cultural action, etc.). Created in the 1980s, these venues have spread across France and have had a transformative effect on the cultural and artistic landscape. However, this emergence is now subject to the test of time, and the SMAc, like all organizations, are faced with queries about their future. This uncertainty and these questions raise fundamental interrogations such as whether empowerment is transitive. If so, can a collective body such as these be sustainably liberating? What historical examples can we point to? Popular education, trade unions, the associative movement and cooperatives all have points in common, as do certain public services (social security, museums, theatres, music conservatoires, etc.). By broadening the scope, it is certainly possible to identify solidarities, similarities and historical points of reference in order to place the Scènes de Musiques Actuelles epic more firmly within the context of numerous civic movements and thus update their perspectives. If we consider them over the long run, we are not only taking reality into account, but also reinventing a new relevance for each time period, thus making new futures possible on the basis of contemporary thinking. These reflections and questions will be at the heart of Theme 5, which invites anyone involves with the Scènes de Musiques Actuelles to submit a paper.

Conditions of Registration

Proposals for papers should be sent in either French or English and addressed to Pascal Dupuy (pascal.dupuy@univ-rouen.fr) and Joann Élart (joann.elart@univ-rouen.fr)

before 30 June 2024.

They should include the paper’s title, a brief abstract (1000 characters maximum), and a short bibliography (500 characters maximum).

Papers accepted by the scientific committee will have to be presented in French or in English.

Unfortunately, we are unable to cover travel expenses (special conditions will be granted to doctoral students), but meals and accommodation will be provided for all participants.

Organising committee

  • Jean-Christophe Aplincourt (106, directeur)
  • Nathalie Cordier (106, responsable action culturelle)
  • Pascal Dupuy (université de Rouen Normandie, Maître de conférences, historien)
  • Joann Élart (université de Rouen Normandie, Maître de conférences, musicologue

Scientific committee

  • Jean-Christophe Aplincourt (106, directeur)
  • Pascal Dupuy (université de Rouen Normandie, Maître de conférences, historien)
  • Joann Élart (université de Rouen Normandie, Maître de conférences, musicologue)
  • Stéphane Escoubet (université Toulouse Jean Jaurès, PRAG, musicologue)
  • Gérôme Guibert (Sorbonne Nouvelle, Professeur des universités, sociologue)
  • Christophe Pirenne (Université de Liège, Professeur, musicologue)
  • Florence Tamagne (Université de Lille III, Maître de conférences, historienne)
  • Sophie Victorien (CNRS, CLAMOR UAR 3726, Ingénieure de recherche, historienne)

Bibliographic references

Baker Catherine, The Routledge Handbook of Popular Music and Politics of the Balkans, Routledge, 2024, 704 p. 

Carlet Yasmine, Stand Down Margaret ! L’engagement de la musique populaire britannique contre les gouvernements Thatcher, Clermont-Ferrand, Éditions Mélanie Séteun, 2004, 114 p. [en ligne sur OpenEdition Books] https://books.openedition.org/ms/1274?lang=fr

Delmas Yves, Gancel Charles, Protest song. La chanson contestataire dans l’Amérique des sixties, Paris, Textuel, 2005.

Guibert Gérôme, « Détourner le contrôle ? Le cas de la Fédération des lieux de musiques actuelles », Sociologies pratiques, 2011/1, n° 22, p. 79-92 [en ligne sur CAIRN] https://www.cairn.info/revue-sociologies-pratiques-2011-1-page-79.htm

Peddie Jan, Popular Music and Human Rights, Routledge, 2012, 222 p. 

Reed Thomas, « Famine, Apartheid and the Politics of “Agit-Pop”- Music as (Anti)colonial Discourse », Cercles, n° 3, 2001 (Musique Populaire Britannique et Americaine: Subversion et/ou Divertissement ?), p. 96-113 [en ligne et téléchargeable] http://www.cercles.com/n3/reed.pdf

Seca Jean-Marie, Carlet Yasmine, « Vingt ans de Live Aid : comment le charity rock a-t-il transformé l’engagement politique en musique populaire », Cahiers de psychologie politique n°7, juillet 2005 (Musiques et politique), p. 16-40, 2007 [en ligne] https://cpp.numerev.com/articles/revue-7/657-vingt-ans-de-live-aid-comment-le-charity-rock-a-t-il-transforme-l-engagement-politique-en-musique-populaire

Renton David, Never again. Rock Against Racism and the Anti-Nazi Leaugue (1976-1982), Routledge Books, 2018.

Springer Robert. « Chuck Berry: conformiste ou contestataire ? », Cercles, n° 3, 2001 (Musique Populaire Britannique et Americaine: Subversion et/ou Divertissement ?), p. 96-113 [en ligne et téléchargeable] http://www.cercles.com/n3/springer.pdf

Places

  • Rouen, France (76)

Event attendance modalities

Full on-site event


Date(s)

  • Sunday, June 30, 2024

Keywords

  • rock, émancipation, engagement, concert

Contact(s)

  • Pascal DUPUY
    courriel : pascal [dot] dupuy [at] univ-rouen [dot] fr
  • Joann Elart
    courriel : joann [dot] elart [at] univ-rouen [dot] fr

Information source

  • Joann Elart
    courriel : joann [dot] elart [at] univ-rouen [dot] fr

License

CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Rock, Activism and Liberation (1950-2020) », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, April 23, 2024, https://doi.org/10.58079/w9ct

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