CfP: Love and Sentimentalism in Popular Music (Royal Holloway University of London)

Love and Sentimentalism in Popular Music – An Interdisciplinary Symposium
27-28 June 2013 – Royal Holloway University of London
Deadline: 31 January, 2013

Keynote Speaker: Christine Yano, University of Hawaii

The distinct yet linked concepts of love and sentimentalism are among the most widespread emotional ideas found in popular music around the world. Yet, with the notable exceptions of Christine Yano’s research in Japan (2002) and Martin Stokes’ research in Egypt (2007) and Turkey (2010) the themes of love and sentimentalism in popular music have received little serious attention. There has been an implicit tendency to view love uncritically, as a universal concept, which disregards its diverse cultural, historical, and musical manifestations and representations. Furthermore, love and sentimentalism in popular music are too often discarded as banal invocations of a personal realm, often leading their broader relations to society, culture, history, and politics to be overlooked or inadequately analysed.

Both Yano and Stokes challenge us to consider how narratives of love and sentimentalism may converge with ideas of nation and citizenship in popular music and its star performers. Indeed, popular music around the world has often been connected to ideas of national sentiment, ways of loving, and belonging whether through official state involvement or within intimate public spheres which operate beyond, or, in spite of, the state. This situation raises some important questions. How might the relationship between popular music, love, sentimentalism, and national citizenship be manifested differently in particular cultural and historical contexts? How can we reconcile such nationally orientated conceptions of love, sentiment and popular music with frequently cosmopolitan aesthetics and transnational economies of affect? Why do some styles of popular music and their affective work resist being bound by national frameworks more easily than others? Alternatively, how might we interpret lovelorn narratives of romantic sorrow, suffering, and frustration in popular music in relation to wider experiences of dislocation, alienation, anomie, and disenfranchisement in modernity? Moreover, how are concepts of love and sentimentalism gendered and how is this manifested in musical performance?

It is also important to note that the majority of popular music that deals with ideas of love and sentimentalism exists in the form of song. That leads us to consider in what ways love and sentimentalism are expressed distinctly in the domains of music, words, and voice and how these domains interact. Furthermore, how does the expression of love and sentimentalism depend on who is performing, their social status, and any pre-existing relations of intimacy between performer and listener? How might such relations of intimacy and musical articulations of love and sentimentalism be mediated by technology?

Papers that shed light on these themes are invited from any relevant discipline including ethnomusicology, anthropology, popular music studies, musicology, sociology, history, and film studies. Please email abstracts of no more than 250 words for 20-minute papers (with a short biographical note) to James Butterworth ( by 31 January 2013.

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