Decolonising Music Studies: A Roundtable


The Auralities network at the Centre for Research on the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) at University of Cambridge, in collaboration with the RMA Music and Philosophy Study Group, is pleased to present:

Decolonising Music Studies: A Roundtable
Wednesday, 2 June 2021
2:30 pm BST

Alexander Douglas (Cambridge); guest convenor
Diljeet Kaur Bhachu (Royal Northern College of Music)
Shzr Ee Tan (Royal Holloway)
Ken Ueno (University of California, Berkeley)

For further details and Zoom registration:

What does it mean to decolonise music studies? This roundtable discussion works from the premise that there can be no real ‘decentering’ of musical curricula or ‘decolonising’ of creative musical practice unless and until the tensions in the lived experiences of BAME practitioner/pedagogues who live and work in the West without being ‘Western’ have been unpacked in ways that question the very concept of ‘reflexivity’ itself. In doing so, we seek to evade a solipsistic politics of identity, the growing tensions created by those who presume a necessary division between ‘postcolonial’ and ‘decolonial’ frames of reference, and the ongoing hegemony of Western epistemology and hermeneutics, which is beginning to lead to a ‘colonising’ of ‘decolonisation’. Without disavowing Tuck and Yang’s argument that ‘Decolonization is not a metaphor’ (2012), we may find such rigid assertions unsatisfactory in addressing music as a polyvalent practice, both conceptually and culturally.

Speakers will share perspectives on how they engage in pedagogies and epistemologies of resistance in their work as musicians, teachers, and academics. A central concern will be to reflect on how the conventions and circumscriptions (read: baggage) of Western academia, irrespective of geography, can be collectively understood as a singular phenomenon that so often takes more than it gives. Among other reasons, this results from a presumption throughout much of the history of music studies that all non-white persons/peoples and their music are inferior. Western academia remains a hegemonic force and as such, our discussion aims to subject questions of identity and agency in music to a decentered, intersectional critique through collaborative agency and discussion in ways that point back to concerns raised decades ago by figures such as Paulo Freire and Frantz Fanon.

Questions/contact: Peter McMurray (

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