BFE Student Paper Prize – Winner 2019

The BFE Student Prize for 2019 recognises an outstanding paper presented by a student at this year’s BFE Annual Conference, hosted by The Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen (11-14 April 2019). The decision this year was extremely difficult given the high quality of the papers submitted and the diversity of approaches. We are delighted to award the prize to Vicky Tadros (SOAS, University of London) whose paper is described below. Given the difficult decision-making process, this year the selection committee would like to give commendations to the following authors (papers listed below): Lorenzo Chiarofonte; Hamidreza Salehyar; and Mark Aranha, Cara Stacey, Bronwen Clacherty and Kristy Stone. We would like to thank everyone who submitted a paper this year and encourage students to submit papers for next year’s conference at Bath Spa University in 2020.


Vicky Tadros: ‘Negotiating the Private: Car Listening Culture and Emirati Values’

This ethnographically-rich and well researched paper examines musical listening practices in the autonomous space of the car, focusing on extensive fieldwork conducted in the United Arab Emirates. Noting its high symbolic value in Emirati culture, Tadros argues that the car also functions as a central space for listening behaviours in the UAE. She contends that unlike in alternative private spheres, the car is a flexible space in which Emiratis can express contemporary values while at the same time adhering to the traditional expectations experienced in public and home settings. The car, in effect, becomes a third space in which individuals can negotiate conflicting ethical ideals around religion, modernity and sexuality. For example, Tadros draws on interviews with LGBTQ Emiratis who view the car as a ‘safe’ space in which they can express, through music, their own sexuality, which would otherwise be hidden from view in other contexts. But rather than viewing the car solely as an individualistic space, Tadros also explores the impact of state-sanctioned religious ethics that filter into the car and influence listening behaviours. In particular, she focuses on how Emiratis experience the sonic infiltration of the adhan into the private space of the car. Given the adhan’s position outside the domain of music, its sonic presence in the car creates an ‘ethical crossroads’ for listeners. They are forced to make personal ethical choices on how they respond to the public sounding of the adhan in the private space – to adhere to religious ethics of listening by turning down the radio or to choose musical content above religious norms. As Tadros notes, this poses the question: Madonna or Mohammed?

Tadros’ paper is well written and meticulously researched. She beautifully interweaves theory and ethnographic material into her analysis. The paper makes important contributions to sound studies, ethnomusicological research on the Middle East and the study of sound and listening in the Islamic world. In exploring the neglected space of the car, Tadros shows how listening behaviours can complicate assumed theoretical binaries between the public and the private. The paper is lively and engaging, and was a pleasure to read. It is a valuable contribution to the field.



Lorenzo Chiarofonte: ‘To Ko Gyi Kyaw: Music Structures, Interaction Processes, and Performance Context of a Burmese nat-chin

Hamidreza Salehyar: ‘Nationalist Islamism, Transnational Shi’ism, and Rituals of Martyrdom in Iran’

Mark Aranha, Cara Stacey, Bronwen Clacherty, & Kristy Stone: ‘Ife and Bilal: An Intercultural, Practice-Based Intervention’


Selection Committee

Dr Matthew Machin-Autenrieth (chair), Dr Rachel Harris, Dr Steve Wilford