Call for papers



ESEM XXVIII: Music and Cultural Memory in post-1989 Europe

The XXVIII European Seminar in Ethnomusicology (ESEM) will take place from 19 to 23 September 2012 in Ljubljana, Slovenia and will be hosted by the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research and the Institute of Ethnomusicology of the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts.

Seminar theme:

Music has a strong capacity to evoke, embody and narrate the past, that is, it can serve is a repository of cultural memory which is “retained either through cultural formation (text, rites or monuments) or through institutional commemoration (recitation, practice, observance) […] and formalized through ceremony” (Assmann 1995). Commemorative ceremonies, red-letter days and other public rituals are distinguishable from other events as they “possess a characteristic of ritual re-enactment, which is central to the shaping of collective memory” (Whitehead 2009). Musical performance, as an inseparable element of public practice, represents an important element in the construction of historical past in public realm. Therefore, it is employed to narrate collective remembrance and used in the embodiments, interpretations and representations of the past.

This year’s ESEM meeting aims to approach this topic from two aspects: by exploring the ways in which current musical forms address the past events and by investigating the strategies of reshaping and renarrating the musics from the past in the dominant discourses of the present. The focus on the post-1989 national pasts is intentional: the processes of EU integration, the collapse of socialist regimes and cultural transformations in post-1989 Europe have influenced the renarrativisation of the past and the related changes in memory cultures. In this respect, music plays a significant role and is used in contemporary European memory landscapes to question, transgress and legitimize the dichotomies and hierarchies between national and transnational, ‘eastern’ and ‘western,’ public and private, collective and individual, official and unofficial.

Therefore we are interested in sonic representations of the national past: musical genres, performance settings, musicians, spectators, organizers and all actors involved in the musical event. Thus we hope to shed light on the ways that cultural memory has entered the sphere of the popular through the most conspicuous branches of (musical) ‘memory industry’ (Klein 2000:127).

Papers are invited addressing one or more of the following topics:

music in commemorations, public rituals and celebrations in post-1989 Europe
music, conflicting remembrance and traumatic past
musical past in post-socialist transformations and processes of EU integration
musical past and new media
musical performance in the construction of historical past in public realm
music and memory industry

We will also consider including selected free papers in order to allow dissemination of important recent achievements in the field. Abstracts related to the central set of topics will have priority. We invite proposals for individual presentations, which must not exceed 20 minutes in length, panels and round tables of up to 90 minutes. We also welcome poster presentations and video projections.

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 evening video projections.

Proposals including 300-word abstract, your full name, affiliation and contact details (as attachment) should be submitted to: or

A draft program will be announced in April 2012 and registration will open.

Programme committee
Slawomira Kominek (Poland),
Ardian Ahmedaja (Austria),
Ana Hofman (Slovenia)(chair),
Mojca Kova?i? (Slovenia),