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Call for Papers: Racialised Performance in Western Classical Music in Europe and the UK

Call for Papers: Racialised Performance in Western Classical Music in Europe and the UK

  • Date20 November 2019

This one-day conference, supported by the IMR and RCM, will address identity issues faced by professional Western classical musicians of colour in European and British orchestras, chamber music, solo instrumental and vocal performance.

Jennifer Koh, credit Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Christina Walker photographer 1.jpg

Jennifer Koh (credit: Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Christina Walker photographer)

** This conference has been re-themed and reformatted for a new online event on June 22, 'Orchestrating Isolation: Musical Interventions and Inequality in the COVID-19 Fallout' **

Details for the originally planned event, now postponed until 2021:

Keynote Speaker: Jennifer Koh

Date: Monday 22 June 2020, 10am-7pm

Venue: Royal College of Music

Organisers: Maiko Kawabata (Royal College of Music) and Shzr Ee Tan (Royal Holloway, University of London)

The conference follows on from the recent Study Day, ‘Cultural Imperialism and the New “Yellow Peril” in Western Classical Music’ (10 June 2019 – see also the event's Facebook group), the first event of its kind to bring attention to the racialised bodies, racial constructions and positionings of East Asian performers in the habitus of Western classical music in Europe and the UK. By habitus, we refer to Bourdieu’s term signalling typical behaviours and cultural expectations in this case those accompanying middle class privilege, connotations of the elite and capital accruing to such performed behaviours. This includes the field of professional music-making, concert culture, and conservatoires.

This conference will continue such discussions and open them up to a wider range of issues beyond ‘Yellow’, related to equality, diversity and inclusivity in our field, such as: the role of visuality, constructions of difference (including political and psychological dimensions), intersectionality, and how such considerations might shape performance aesthetics. It also picks up on recent controversies over yellowfacing in opera productions around the world, and the aborted orchestral tour by the Eastman School of Music to China over the alleged issue of visas.

For this particular event, we will focus on the theme of performance and performative bodies and spaces. Further debates on topics including histories and historical constructions of East Asian musicianship, issues of fit-for-purpose music education policies, curricula and strategies (including the ‘problem’ of China as new revenue stream), are being planned for separate future meetings.

We invite papers (particularly from BAME scholars and early career researchers) on topics including but not limited to:

  • intersectional positioning of East Asian musicians in relation to various BAME communities, gender, class (including interaction with Asian-American debates)
  • documenting casual and structural racism in classical music institutions
  • performing East Asian bodies, spaces and musics and rewriting scripts
  • stereotypes of East Asian musicians as ‘soulless machines’ etc.
  • anti-racist initiatives
  • the ideological baggage surrounding the myth of Western classical music as a ‘universal’ language

Our keynote speaker, violinist Jennifer Koh, is a forward-thinking artist dedicated to exploring a broad and eclectic repertoire, while promoting diversity and inclusivity in classical music. She will also give a masterclass at the Royal College of Music on Tuesday 23 June 2020 at 6.15pm.

Abstracts (up to 300 words) for individual papers or lecture-performances (20 minutes) can be sent to or

CFP Deadline: 17:00 GMT Monday 13 January 2020
Applicants will be informed of the outcome of their submission by 24 February 2020.

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