ESEM-Seminar 2013 – Cultural Mapping and Musical Diversity

The XXIX European Seminar in Ethnomusicology (ESEM) will take place from September 4 to 8, 2013, in Bern (Switzerland) and will be hosted by the Institute of Musicology and the Center for Cultural Studies of the University of Bern. For details see Call for Papers.


ESEM XXIX: Cultural Mapping and Musical Diversity


Seminar theme

«Cultural mapping» has become a central keyword in the UNESCO strategy to protect world cultural and natural heritage. It can be described as a tool to increase the awareness of cultural diversity. As Crawhall (2009) pointed out, cultural mapping was initially considered to represent the «landscapes in two or three dimensions from the perspectives of indigenous and local peoples». It thus transforms the intangible cultural heritage to visible items by establishing profiles of cultures and communities, including music traditions. Cultural mapping is used as a resource for a variety of purposes as broad as peace building, adaptation to climate change, sustainability management, heritage debate and management, but can also become highly useful in the analysis of conflict points. Music plays a significant role in each of these aspects.This year’s symposium invites to highlight, yet also to critically reassess this topic from the following ethnomusicologicalperspectives:

–          The method of cultural mappingin ethnomusicology

What approaches and research techniques have been used so far to establish musical maps in this context? What kinds of maps have been developed(and, for example, how far do these relate toindigenous mental maps that have only been transmitted orally)? How far do these modern approaches deviate from the earlier cultural mapping approaches of the cultural area approaches thatwere still evident with Alan P. Merriam and in Alan Lomax` Cantometrics? In how far are the methods of cultural mapping and of ethnomusicological fieldwork different and how can they benefit from each other?


–          Intangible cultural heritage and musical diversity

As the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage pointed out in Article 12, each state signing the declaration «shall draw up, in a manner geared to its own situation, one or more inventories of the intangible cultural heritage, present in its territory and monitor these.»This symposium calls for a critical re-assessment of the hitherto established UNESCO intangible cultural heritage lists.The idea is to highlight the sensitive nature and the effects of the various heritage representations.«Heritage»is understood here as a selection from a selection – a small subset of history that relates to a given group of people in a particular place, at a specific time (Dann and Seaton 2001:26).

This can include presentations of case studies, yet also a critical re-analysis of the selection process, e.g. who was included – or even excluded (and why)?Who were the decision makers? How can the role of ethnomusicology be described here? Where are the (existent and possible) conflict points (politically, socially, legally, etc.)?What kinds of solution strategies are available to us? How is the issue of diversity – that has been so strongly emphasized in the UNESCO declarations– reflected in the approaches? How might diversity be represented in future approaches? How does the selection process affect musical canonization (and exclusion)? Whatis the role of archives in this process?


–          Cultural landscapeandmusic

As defined by the World Heritage Committee, cultural landscapes can be understood as a distinct geographical area representing the «combined work of nature and man» ( sub-topic calls for a more detailed – and general – exploration of the exact relation between nature/landscape (and definition of such) and music/sound. How exactly is landscape interrelated with music – and identified (and vice versa)? How is this interrelation being applied and exploited in a (inter-)national context?


ESEM is a seminar rather than a conference: we host collegial meetings open to researchers from all over the world in which participants can gather to share ideas and discuss recent work in ethnomusicology in an informal setting. In order to do this, we may need to limit the number of paper presentations (which must not exceed 20 minutes in length), but nonetheless we do all we can to support those who wish to attend. We welcome proposals for complete panels (of up to 90 minutes). We shall also consider the presentation of research in the form of posters and a limited number of video projections.


Bern is the Federal City of Switzerland and located between the Jura Mountains and the Alpine Bernese Oberland. The historic old town center became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. The Institute of Musicology was founded by musicologist Ernst Kurth in 1912. In 2009, the department established a new study program on Cultural Anthropology of Music that is also part of the likewise newly founded Center for Cultural Studies.


Proposals including a 300 word abstract, your full name and contact details (as attachment; word-file, not pdf) should be submitted to:

A draft program will be announced in March 2013 and registration (and accommodation details) will be open from April 2013.

Program committee

Britta Sweers (Switzerland, chair),

Sarah Ross (Switzerland),

Ursula Hemetek (Austria),

Ana Hofman (Slovenia),