2 Jun 2021 2:30pm - 4:30pm ONLINE SESSION (UK Time)


This is an online event hosted via Zoom. To attend please register online.


Alexander Douglas (Cambridge), guest convenor

Diljeet Kaur Bhachu (Royal Northern College of Music)

Shzr Ee Tan (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Ken Ueno (University of California, Berkeley)



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 individual 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.


About the Speakers

Alexander Douglas (roundtable guest convenor) is both an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary researcher working across aesthetics, anthropology, critical medical humanities and religious epistemology. An award-winning jazz pianist, he directs ensembles ranging from gospel choirs to baroque ensembles and is currently working on a commission for the 2021 Manchester Jazz Festival that will constitute a protest against racial violence of both past and present. He currently serves as EDI Lead for both the British Forum for Ethnomusicology and the Royal Musical Association Music Philosophy Study Group.

Diljeet Kaur Bhachu is a musician, educator, researcher and activist based in Glasgow. She received her PhD from University of Edinburgh, focusing on music education in Scottish primary schools. She currently teaches at several higher education institutions and is also actively involved as a researcher in the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in Music Education (EDIMS) network. For further details, see diljeetbhachu.com

Shzr Ee Tan is Senior Lecturer at Royal Holloway University of London, whose work focuses on Sinophone and Southeast Asian musical worlds. Her publications cover topics from digital global pop to gender in Chinese music. Her research also engages with questions of music and decolonisation, music and race, and cultural imperialism; a new project 'Sounds of Precarious Labour: Acoustic Regimes of Transient Workers in Southeast Asia' has recently been been greenlit for funding by the AHRC. She is a member of the EDIMS steering group and is EDI Director of the PDA School at RHUL.

Ken Ueno is a composer/vocalist/sound artist who is currently a Professor at UC Berkeley. He is a recipient of the Rome Prize and the Berlin Prize, and is active as an activist for diversity/equity in new music. Ueno holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University and his bio appears in The Grove Dictionary of American Music. http://kenueno.com



Questions/contact: Peter McMurray (pm638@cam.ac.uk)

Part of the seminar series of Auralities Research Network and co-organised with the RMA Music and Philosophy Study Group. 
Administrative assistance: networks@crassh.cam.ac.uk 

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