Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Colloquy: Race, Ethnicity, and the Profession (Part 1 of 4)

On Friday, November 4, 2016, the American Musicological Society held a special session on Race, Ethnicity and the Profession during its annual meeting. The panelists were members of a newly configured permanent Committee on the Status of Race and Ethnicity in the Profession, co-chaired (as was the panel) by Judy Tsou and George Lewis.

The editors of Musicology Now recognize that many readers were unable to attend this session at AMS, and accordingly have requested the three papers presented, by Mark Burford, Ellie Hisama, and Bonnie Gordon. We thank the panelists for making their work available in this more public forum. The three papers address issues of institutional or disciplinary exclusion, particularly of scholars of color, of marginalization, and of visibility. They also offer some concrete suggestions for the Society’s members to implement in their own institutions, and lay out the initial directions for this new committee. We will publish these papers over the next three days (see links below).

Rather than a Q&A, the panel chairs asked those in attendance for ideas, concerns, and input about the things this committee might do; they also accepted comments and questions online. These responses covered a great deal of ground; this is not a comprehensive account of the comments given, but a recounting of some of the concerns raised and suggestions made by those in attendance:

• The lack of diversity on AMS awards committees, and consequently, the lack of diversity among awardees, was addressed multiple times. This is most crucially a lack of racial and ethnic diversity, but it is also one of theoretical interests and subject matter. Suggestions included more transparency in appointments to the committees, and greater inclusivity of topics, periods, and methods. Ellie Hisama’s paper makes concrete proposals for addressing these problems.

• An ongoing struggle among scholars of color to be recognized within the AMS—a struggle that includes both professional and social recognition. Invisibility and lack of recognition are regular experiences among scholars of color, regardless of credentials, publication records, professional appointments, and other (ostensibly) recognizable markers of scholarly significance.

• This kind of invisibility extends beyond the AMS into the discipline’s other arenas; Mark Burford’s paper challenges readers not to conflate the disciplinary sites of inequality and exclusion, but to be prepared to address them both comprehensively and discretely. Within the discipline, scholars of color are underrepresented in terms of speaking invitations, keynote addresses, and other prestigious forms of inclusion. As with the awards, there is a great deal of social reproduction in terms of what is seen, recognized, and legitimized within the discipline and its institutions. And, as with the awards, this social reproduction is itself often invisible to those with the power to extend invitations.

• Lack of diversity in the profession begins well before there are tenure-track lines and search committees. Bonnie Gordon’s paper addresses the pipeline to the profession and the inequalities not only in tenure-track hiring, but especially in the contingent labor pools; she calls for collaboration across the music disciplines in addressing “implicit bias, graduate recruiting, faculty hiring, and undergraduate curriculum.”

• The lack of inclusion and real diversity in setting the direction for the discipline by way of the AMS. Proposals included increasing transparency in appointing people to AMS committees, and making a much more robust effort toward equality of representation when making decisions and framing debates about disciplinary and Society direction.

• Several people raised the question of whether greater recognition of popular music scholarship could directly address racial and ethnic inequalities. The larger conversation, however, made it clear that these inequalities have persisted for decades, across subject matter, and that while diversifying the kinds of music that are recognized by the Society and the discipline will help, it is not a complete answer.

It is our hope that this will be the beginning of a larger conversation, here and elsewhere.   --AM

Link to Mark Burford’s remarks.
Link to Bonnie Gordon’s remarks.
Link to Ellie Hisama’s remarks.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for posting these materials, so that those of us unable to attend the conference can follow the discussion!