Conference Themes

1) African Music and Dance: Past, Present, and Future Approaches to Research

The 2023 Ghana conference marks the third time an ICTM World Conference has been hosted on the continent of Africa, and the second time in Ghana since the initial 1966 meeting. The return of ICTM to Africa in 2023 marks a significant moment to reconsider and evaluate the state of research within African music and dance, inclusive of all regions of the continent, within national and transnational cultural contexts, but also within African diasporic practices and their impacts. This theme encourages presenters to revisit past research priorities and practices in African music and dance but also look to the future to identify new scholarly frameworks and approaches. What new themes and areas of research are emerging in the ethnomusicology and ethnochoreology of African music and dance, within scholarly traditions as well as national, transnational, regional, and global priorities? How might we evaluate and reassess past research and scholarly practices in the music and dance of African traditions? What new topics, approaches, and methodologies are being considered by scholars working with African music and dance? This conference theme invites new research on music and dance, broadly considered, and asks presenters to critically reflect on the state of research with practices and contexts, studies of performers, composers, scholars, and in new research that explores emerging cultural and social issues. Presentations might also focus on African diasporic musics and dances. Scholars might consider the implications of diasporic practices, the central role that musics of Africa have played in the development of myriad forms, some locally and others globally and their extensive impacts, musically and culturally. Presenters might consider theoretical, comparative, analytical, and/or methodological approaches for papers on this theme. 

2) Decolonization in Music and Dance Studies

Scholars across the globe have affirmed decolonization as a urgent priority in society as well as in approaches to research. Decolonization not only identifies issues and structures of discrimination, but it also seeks to locate and reimagine new engagements with ethics and equity, locally and globally. ICTM has offered commitment to decolonization in music and dance studies through major new initiatives across 2021, including the Dialogues series. This conference theme asks presenters to extend these discussions through new research, case studies, and theorizing about decolonization within presentations at the World Conference. What is the current state of decolonization in ethnomusicology and ethnochoreology? What progress has been made and what ideas, practices, and methodologies are emerging to further decolonize disciplines and approaches globally? Scholars might consider individual case studies of decolonization within specific practices, cultural contexts, and institutions as well as within new methodologies of research that underscore questions of equity and ethics. Moreover, how does decolonization open up new critical approaches and analysis of music and dance, in problems of racism and oppression, poverty, environment and climate change, and migration, and in other areas? Scholars might consider decolonization within their individual research, but also within new ways of undertaking research, drawing on creative practices, local and Indigenous methodologies of research, and new frameworks of scholarship. Presenters might also consider decolonization in relation to music curricula, in the inclusion of underrepresented, minority, and historically marginalized groups and the need for critical evaluations of canons in music and dance programmes. 

3) Music, Dance, and Well-Being: Impacts from and Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Music has long been recognized for its capacity in well-being and as a practice connected to issues of health. New questions around well-being have emerged with urgency during the global COVID-19 pandemic, with impacts experienced across the globe. COVID-19 has resulted in changes across societies and cultures and in music and dance, with its impacts felt in institutions, transmission and education, performance and events, but also in the expansion of online environments for music and dance practices, offering new opportunities and challenges. In some cases, the pandemic has resulted in further exposing existing inequities, but it has also resulted in new problems and questions for practitioners, institutions, and societies. What new means of research and methods have emerged during the pandemic? In turn, how have music and dance practices offered new pathways for well-being during COVID-19? This theme asks presenters to critically reflect on the role of music and dance in issues resulting from and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including local cases and across global trajectories. Papers might focus on the transformative function of music and dance during the pandemic in communicating health issues, and the challenges and complex problems presented by the pandemic. In addition, presenters might also explore the adaptive processes of community building during and after periods of lockdown. Presenters might consider the connections between performance and health in specific contexts of musical activism and practice, as well as within broader contexts, including new online experiences created during the pandemic. 

4) Gender and Sexuality in Global Music and Dance

Identities in gender and sexuality are an integral part of music and dance practices globally. Just as our identities shape our approaches to music and dance, so music and dance practices impact our subjectivities regarding gender and sexuality. This theme invites presenters to deepen our understanding of musical and dance relationships regarding gender and sexuality globally through new scholarship and case studies internationally. While expressive practices are long understood to be vehicles for communicating identities, performances also challenge normative frameworks and forms of discrimination and oppressions. Music and dance may bring greater awareness of marginalized identities but likewise move us toward notions of equity. How are ideas about gender and sexuality carried in specific musical genres, contexts, instruments, and ideas? In what ways does music and dance experiences both offer pathways to affirm individual, LGBTQ+, and non-binary identities, and how do these intersect and challenge cultural and social norms globally? Presenters might consider such topics related to intersectional contexts, marginalized subjectivities, feminism, queer theory, new histories related to LGBTQ+ identities, and contemporary contexts of subverting gender binaries. Still another topic might be how local institutions in music and dance affirm identities related to gender and/or sexuality, and how they bring new insights and reshape ideas in broader society. 

5) Popular Music, Dance, and Activism

Popular music and dance have long been at the forefront of social, cultural, and political activism. Individual musicians, performing groups, their lyrics, music, and movements have been effective tools for communicating activist stances in issues globally, just as musicians and dancers regularly align their work with national, revolutionary, and international issues. Presenters for this theme might choose to focus on musicians, popular bands and groups, styles, and genres, both historically and in the present that reflect activist approaches locally and globally. What specific forms of analysis lend themselves to exploring music and dance within activist agendas? How have musics and dances provoked change in examples nationally and internationally, through effective communication and sensorial approaches to complex social and political problems? How can we better understand musicians and dancers as effective activists in social and historical contexts? Other topics that link with this theme include censorship, inter-regional mobilities, and the role of festivals. Presenters might revisit past cases of activism in popular music within new analysis, or explore how new, current forms, practices, and styles are actively confronting, transforming, and reshaping current problems in societies. 

6) Conflict and Peace-Making through Music and Dance

Within ongoing and emerging escalations of violence and warfare internationally, we prompt ICTM members to critically explore themes of conflict and peace-making through music and dance. Music and dance have long been employed in situations of warfare, and in relation to propaganda and nationalism, state violence and its escalation, and in broad forms of social disruption. At the same time, music and dance are long recognized for their potential in conflict resolution, diplomacy, and processes of peace-making. How are the expressive, social qualities of music and dance situated within processes of conflict and mediating peace? What insights might new scholarship offer to better understand the local shapes of music and dance within warfare and violence, and in turn as valuable practices in the establishment of social peace? This theme invites presenters to consider these questions in local and regional case studies and within culturally defined ideas of cultural diplomacy and conflict resolution, and especially in new emerging areas of social and political dispute. Presenters might offer new analyses of past circumstances or new ethnographic approaches to conflict and mediation, while considering the multivalent capacity of music and dance in the establishment of peaceful social relations. 

7) Exploring the Materials of Music and Dance: Instruments, Bodies, Technologies

This theme takes as its focus the materiality of music and dance. These include musical instruments and sound objects, including those worn as part of structured movement, but also attire and regalia, and technologies as part of performance and listening contexts. These materials are deeply connected within cultural heritage, just as they are often at the centre of cultural revivals and innovations. What does a material focus bring to studies of music and dance? What new dimensions to the ‘material turn’ might be considered by studies for music and dance? Approaches to this theme might examine materiality as part of organology and new perspectives on instruments, or studies of the interconnected visual aspects of music and dance, including in relation to the body, its adornment, decoration, and movements. Materials also involve the environment, including within increasing concern for ideas of sustainability in cultural practices. Moreover, how might we encapsulate the range of material technology involved in music and dance in local and global contexts, including in new digital spaces, as part of cultural and material worlds? A focus on the material explores a broader range of sensorial elements that comprise music and dance internationally. Presenters also might consider the conflicts and challenges that surround materials and technology in areas such as inequality, data ownership, and knowledge access. Papers for this theme might approach the material world through a theoretical or practical lens, drawing on case studies as well as broadly comparative work. 

8) New Research

In addition to the themes above, we welcome papers on new areas of research not addressed within the conference themes.


Submissions are open for individual paper presentations, organized panels, film/video sessions, and roundtables. Abstracts must be submitted in English.

The deadline for submissions is 10 October 2022. Click here to submit your proposal.