Border Crossings / Boundary Maintenance

The Société Française d’Ethnomusicologie (SFE) and the British Forum for Ethnomusicology (BFE) invite you to our joint conference in Paris, 2-5 July 2015.

Final program


In recognition that this will be the first joint meeting of the two institutions (and the first time the BFE will be holding its annual meeting outside the United Kingdom) we have chosen the theme: Border Crossings/Boundary Maintenance

The theme identifies several areas of scholarly reflection and inquiry to be undertaken. For contemporary ethnomusicologists, ‘boundaries’ invoke a myriad of solid, porous and imagined lines to be negotiated, crossed, or dissolved. On the one hand, they suggest the national, legal and political borders – and the cultural and linguistic differences – that once largely determined our notions of Self and Other. On the other hand, they bring to mind the abstract binaries that shaped comparative musicology and early ethnomusicology, such as Western/non-Western, past/present, sacred/secular, rural/urban, traditional/modern, oral/written, and female/male.

The conference will address some of the following sub-topics:

1) Music crossing boundaries

In the first place, the conference will explore how music crosses boundaries, and is inhibited from doing so: how practices, genres, instruments, ideas, and musicians themselves move between contexts, as well as how they are resisted and shut out.

2) The bounds of tradition in music

Another privileged site of investigation will be musical tradition. The very idea of tradition has typically suggested boundaries, and possibilities that lie ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ them. What is held to be outside any given tradition is not always foreign to it, of course, for it often forms the context to which the tradition responds and sets itself in distinction. And, of course, elements from outside are often welcomed.

This theme also offers opportunities to think about the impact that ever quicker global circulation has had on music, about how traditions are patrolled and defended in this context, and about the ways traditions draw (or do not) upon a seemingly overwhelming array of new possibilities. At the same time, the conference offers chances to consider how traditions have always had insides and outsides, and how, in many times and places, boundaries have been subject to negotiation.

3) Crossing categories

The theme of boundary crossing and maintenance presents an opportunity to contemplate ideological boundaries: categories that exist in the musical practices we study and in the way we as scholars have framed these practices: sacred/secular, urban/rural, and so on. How are these categories asserted and challenged? What moves across these lines, and what does not? Are there moments when these borders become more or less significant?

4) Intellectual territories

Last, but not least, the theme of boundary crossing/maintenance also provides an opportunity to contemplate the distinctiveness of French and British (and francophone and anglophone) traditions of ethnomusicology. It allows us to ask whether, just as musical traditions have their insides and outsides, their borrowings and barriers, so too do traditions of scholarly endeavour. One goal of the conference is that it not simply be a place where scholarly boundaries are crossed and defended, but where the dynamics of this border-work are examined critically and reflexively.

The conference will take place 2–5 July 2015 at the Musée du quai Branly in Paris; it will be a bilingual event.

The preliminary programme for the joint conference of the Société Française d’Ethnomusicologie and the British Forum for Ethnomusicology – to be held Thursday 2 to Saturday 5 July in Paris at the Musée de Quai Branly – is now available here. Further details will follow soon. 

Joint BFE-SFE Program Committee:

Amanda Villepastour and Byron Dueck (BFE), Susanne Fürniss and Fabrice Contri (SFE).

Conference dates: 
2 Jul 2015 to 5 Jul 2015
Musée de Quai Branly, Paris