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Call for papers

Call for Papers: Special Issue on “Settler Colonialism and Decolonization”

(17/1 March 2020)

Guest Editors: Jeremy Strachan (Cornell University) and Dylan Robinson (Queen’s University)

Articles are invited for a special themed issue on settler colonialism and its relationship to musical processes and practices in the twentieth and twenty-first century. As Patrick Wolfe has influentially argued, settler colonialism is a ‘structure not an event’: an ongoing and reproductive sociopolitical order that seeks to both vanish Indigenous inhabitants as well as normalize and make invisible settler presences in colonized territories. This special issue thus seeks to address the various intersections between music, musical institutions, and specific histories and political structures of settler colonialism. While a robust field of settler colonial studies has had significant influence across the humanities, social sciences, and political theory, music’s role in maintaining settler colonial structures has received considerably less attention. Modernist, avant-garde, and popular traditions in twentieth- and twenty-first-century music have long been complicit in this process. While part of this project addresses the ongoing practices of cultural resource extraction in contemporary and earlier American “nativist” composition, another part seeks to address how “non-exoticizing” western musical works might be re-examined through the lens of settler colonialism. How might settler colonial theory reframe our understanding of histories of musical nationalism and exceptionalism (Copland, MacDowell, Ives, Somers), and compositional practice more generally? “Borrowings” and misuses of Indigenous song in North America, Australia, and other settler colonial nations have often been scrutinized within the paradigm of exoticist, nationalist, or postcolonial frameworks, but how can we reengage such histories within a theoretical purview of settler colonial studies? In addition to the analysis of specific works, topics for articles from musicological, ethnomusicological, popular music and sound studies perspectives might address the following:

  • Music’s role in decolonization, and in particular work that moves beyond the goal of consciousness raising, and beyond decolonization as a metaphor (Tuck and Yang)
  • Settler colonial logics that underpin music composition, performance, listening and writing, as well as decolonizing approaches to these
  • The positionality, ethics and accountability of working as a settler composer, singer-songwriter or scholar of music
  • The impact of intersectional theories of settler colonialism on music, including diasporic, immigrant, “arrivant”, queer, and feminist perspectives
  • Musical forms of extraction, or models of collaboration and alliance between Indigenous and settler creators  
  • Repatriation of Indigenous songs (belongings) from archives and museums, as well as the activation and re-mediation of these in new compositions
  • Historiographic reappraisals of twentieth-century music scholarship from a settler colonial standpoint
  • Ways that Indigenous ontologies and cosmologies are reflected in performance and musical works
  • Music’s role in truth and reconciliation commissions
  • Music’s role in Indigenous activism
  • Rethinking critical site-specific / soundscape composition as settler moves to innocence
  • Reading key texts in settler colonial theory through the lenses of music theory, musicology, ethnomusicology and sound studies

Submissions (6,000–12,000 words) are welcomed on aspects of music’s relationship with settler colonialism and decolonization that prioritizes a critical reading of historiographic, theoretical, and methodological issues. For consideration for inclusion to this special issue, submissions must be received by 1 March 2019. Decisions on articles will be made by 1 April 2019. Informal inquiries may be sent to the Guest Editors: Jeremy Strachan ( and Dylan Robinson (