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Call for Papers: <em>Labour, Livelihood & Culture</em> Conference
Friday 24 May 2013, Chancellor Hall, Senate House, Malet Street, London,

Call for Papers: Deadline 22 April 2013

Labour, Livelihood & Culture: Crafts and Music in the Middle East, South and Central Asia

Conference: Friday 24 May 2013, Chancellor Hall, Senate House, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HU

Organised by The Middle East, South and Central Asia Forum (MESCAF), Institute of Musical Research (IMR), School of Advanced Studies, University of London & Art and Design Research Institute (ADRI), Middlesex University, London

This conference explores arts, crafts, music and dance of the Middle East, South and Central Asia through a focus on labour and livelihood. This focus aims to bring to light little-researched angles of social and political economies of culture, and ways in which they have changed and shifted in different historical eras and different political, economic and social formations.

Whilst performing arts and crafts have been well studied in terms of aesthetics and ideas of art, and also in terms of social function or political agency, economic angles and notions of performers and artisans as labourers have thus far been far less investigated. Arguably the most consistent attention to economies of art and culture has been through development of theories of cultural industries.

In this conference, we aim to spread a wider focus on labour and livelihood looking at it through a variety of lenses as performing arts and crafts, from courtly and classical to mass-produced and contemporary practice, and in epochs ranging from colonial or feudal to globalised and neoliberal. In what ways do the creative / artistic / affective characteristics of performing arts and crafts affect their patterns of (professional or amateur) production? Does our understanding of the value or importance of crafts and performing arts change when we explore their status as labour and ways in which they do – or don’t – provide livelihood for their producers? How do the particular skills and identities of musicians and artisans affect their mobility in times of socio-economic change and what impact does this have on continuity of practice and tradition? In what ways does gender intersect with matters of labour and livelihood of performers and craftspeople? How can we explore the relationship of performing arts and crafts and migration through focus on labour and adaptation to new places and social-economies? What are the effects of mass (re)production and/or dissemination of crafts and performing arts on the value and viability of skilled labour and cultural economies? What role does Intellectual Property and licensing play in legitimizing these cultural industries? What happens to cultural economies as skills and heritage spread across groups of different class or social status? How can we understand differences in amateur and professional artisans and performers through focusing on the economies of cultural production? How do typically low-status performers, whose livelihood is structured through courtly or aristocratic patronage, adapt under cultural nationalism, capitalism, neoliberalism and the commodification and mass production of their crafts? Are craftspeople seen as stakeholders in the economic development of regions? Are culturally relevant practices significant to the human development of regions?

Through examining questions such as these, we aim to revisit, refine or revise notions of social and cultural capital, of socio-economic mobility, of the value, role and agency of crafts and performing arts, and the status of their artisans and performers, and to gain a new understanding of historical trajectories of change in crafts and performing arts.

In particular, through this focus on labour and livelihood, we aim to explore the extensive parallels and similarities of arts and crafts on the one hand and music and performing arts on the other, ranging from questions of lineage, transmission, class/caste/community, professional versus amateur performers and artisans to the impact of globalisation, neoliberal reforms and mediatisation.

These thematic angles will also serve as a means to study performing arts and crafts cultures in the Middle East, South and Central Asia, and to explore the many comparable aspects of these regions, such as colonial history, courtly cultures, artisanal frameworks, structures of gender and sexuality, and modern histories of nation building and, more recently, media and economic liberalisation and globalisation.

We welcome 20-minute papers or shorter presentations for panel discussion that explore topics which could vary from classical or courtly traditions to popular and mass produced or mass mediated ones, and any era of history along the themes of labour and livelihood. The geographical focus is on three regions: the Middle East, South, and Central Asia. Limited funding is available to support speaker expenses. Please email

The conference will be followed by a half day of open discussions on the 25th of May, where possibilities of making connections and/ or networks to promote further thinking about this area shall be explored. We aim to publish selected papers from this conference in an edited volume and/or as special issue of a journal. This half-day will form the focus on production of research outputs. Please indicate if you would like to be involved in this within your email to the organisers.

Please submit a 250-word abstract and a short biographical note (including name, affiliation, e-mail) to the organisers Dr Anna Morcom (Royal Holloway University), Dr Neelam Raina (Middlesex University) by the 15 April 2013. The authors of the accepted abstracts will be notified by 30 April 2013.

Email abstracts to: MESCAFLondon[at]gmail[dot]com

Convenors: Anna Morcom, Royal Holloway, University of London
Neelam Raina, Middlesex University, London

MESCAF Committee / Advisors:
Rachel Harris, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
Laudan Nooshin, City University, London
Katherine Schofield, King’s College London
Martin Stokes, King’s College London
Richard Widdess, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London