BFE Statement of Action on Black Lives Matter

After much internal debate and dialogue with other ethnomusicologists, we, the Committee of the British Forum for Ethnomusicology have decided to release a public statement accompanied by promises of action on race and racism (both interpersonal and structural) in our society.

We recognise the devastating, ongoing and intergenerational disadvantage and discrimination to Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) scholars and communities around the world that have emerged from our shared global history of white domination. We believe that the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Jimmy Mubenga and countless others, and the subsequent international reaction, presents an opportunity for real change. It is in this spirit that we have decided as a Committee to begin an internal conversation and process of consultation with the membership about how we might play our part in combatting racism. We have committed to the immediate actions outlined below, but we will be considering over the coming months and years how to then build on this and make the BFE a better home for ethnomusicologists of all skin colours, races and ethnicities. Our immediate actions are as follows:

·       A new Committee member for equality, diversity and inclusion (that does not rely solely on BIPOC ethnomusicologists to shoulder the burden of this emotionally exhausting work)

·       We will implement an anonymized and safe reporting mechanism to report any equalities issues directly to the BFE Committee by October 2020.

·       A survey of our membership this summer, accompanied by some challenging questions for us all, to be released over the summer, that will enable us to establish where we are at today, and where we need to go.

·       Financial support for BIPOC ethnomusicologists or their community collocuters to enable them to participate in our conferences and study days (the exact shape of which we will decide in Committee during 2020).

In addition to these however, we are also going to be debating further possible actions to combat racism and to decolonise ethnomusicology from the inside out. In all this, we acknowledge that white privilege is real, and continues to exist in the academy and in our social lives, but we believe that ethnomusicology can be critical ground for inter-ethnic understanding, solidarity and common work towards building a more equal world. We do not believe that skin colour should be a barrier to real and positive engagement and scholarship on black, white or other lives. The two are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, we believe that ethnomusicologists, both in terms of scholarly method and relativist outlook, are well placed to advocate for black musical lived experience and to combat racism.

Half of the BFE’s membership exists within, and half without the United Kingdom and therefore, there are a very plural range of cultures in which ethnomusicologists continue to conduct their fieldwork and call home. We recognise therefore, that there are substantial regional differences in terms of diversity and awareness of these issues both within the UK and around the world, but we wish to make the BFE a safe space for BIPOC to engage and contribute to our discipline and improve the pipeline through higher education, and alleviate the difficulties faced by BIPOC scholars of all ages. We wish to encourage this conversation amongst all of our members, and, we know that this is merely the start of a conversation about race in ethnomusicology.

Signed by the Committee of the BFE:

Ruard Absaroka

Amanda Bayley

Raquel Campos

Morgan Davies

Matthew Dicken

Lea Hagmann

Matthew Machin-Autenrieth

Simon McKerrell (Chair)

Fiorella Montero-Diaz

Deirdre Morgan

Shzr Ee Tan

Stephen Wilford