America and the Musical Unconscious [deadline extended]

full name / name of organization: 
LMU Munich / University of Cologne
contact email:

Music is clearly one of the most important components of American culture, and of postmodernity generally. People are listening to music all the time; it’s a new spatial form they are surrounded with, and I wish I could write about that and music generally.”
- Fredric Jameson, Jameson on Jameson. Conversations on Cultural Marxism

When, in 1981, Fredric Jameson forged a new method to analyze cultural texts and objects in terms of what he called “the political unconscious” he focused largely on the political implications of literary artifacts from the realist and modernist periods of especially European descent, to his own regret omitting musical forms of cultural expression. In the thirty-odd years since then, music has doubtlessly gained even more importance in American culture (and American music globally). While the field of American Studies has acknowledged and followed this development in various ways, it nevertheless mostly privileges textual and visual forms of art and thereby often neglects the unique qualities of music with regard to central paradigmatic concerns in the humanities such as space, the body, affect, or cognition. This conference seeks to adjust this imbalance by placing music center stage in American Studies. In doing so, it takes its cue from Jameson and proffers the “musical unconscious” as a general framework of analysis that highlights the convergence of the three dimensions of the individual musical text, the social context, and the technological conditions of possibility or mode of production.
We invite scholars of all fields to explore these dimensions of the American musical unconscious with us in a two-day conference in Munich and to submit proposals for individual papers and panels. There are no limits as to musical genres, historical periods, or media; papers can address everything from jazz to grindcore, from hip hop to country, and from broadway shows or soundtracks to films or video games, as well as different theoretical approaches to assess these cultural productions. Potential research questions include, but are of course not limited to:

- What is the relationship between American studies and musicology?
- How is music inscribed as particularly American, and what is the connection between music and imaginations of nationality? (And how is this connection deconstructed in imaginations of the trans- and postnational?)
- Is American music global music? How is music produced and disseminated, and what are the effects of this exchange?
- How do theorists and philosophers of music, including Adorno, Deleuze and Guattari, Kittler or Badiou, relate to the field of American musical production and expression?
- What are the politics of music? Are certain genres or artists connected to particular ideologies, and has this changed historically?
- How is American music considered along the lines of a high culture / pop culture dichotomy, and where does it function beyond this duality?
- How does music relate to issues of representation and narrative, and to other art forms such as literature, theater, or film?
- Is the study of music the study of media? How is music influenced or determined by technologies of (re)production and communication?
- How can concepts like Jameson’s “political unconscious,” Guattari’s “machinic unconscious,” or Rancière’s “aesthetic unconscious” be thought anew in terms of music?

Please submit your proposals of no more than 300 words by January 15, 2014 to the conference organizers Julius Greve ( and Sascha Pöhlmann (

The conference takes place from May 30-31, 2014 at Junior Year in Munich and is co-organized by the American studies departments of the University of Cologne and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich, in cooperation with Junior Year in Munich. It is open to the public; there is no conference fee.

cfp categories: