Music, Disability, and the Environment:
Bridging Scholarship with Activism
AMS/SMT in San Antonio, 1–4 November 2018
Thursday Evening Panel Session
SMT Interest Group on Music & Disability
AMS Music & Disability Study Group
AMS Ecocriticism Study Group
Anabel Maler (Indiana University Bloomington)
Chair of the SMT Interest Group on Music and Disability
Jessica Holmes (UCLA)
Chair of the AMS Music and Disability Study Group
Jacob A. Cohen (Macaulay Honors College, CUNY)
Co-Chair of the AMS Ecocriticism Study Group
Chantal Lemire (Western University)
Jessica Schwartz (University of California, Los Angeles)
Ailsa Lipscombe (University of Chicago)
William Robin (University of Maryland)
James Deaville (Carleton University)
Rachel Mundy (Rutgers University-Newark)
Since its inception, disability studies has had strong ties to activism. In her groundbreaking study of the field, Simi Linton situates disability studies as a “juncture that can serve both academic discourse and social change,” a means of holding the academy accountable for the social consequences of our research and teaching (Linton 1998). Similarly, scholars of ecocriticism have insisted that “the urgency of the moment suggests that ecocritics must reflect upon, when it comes to the effectuality of their product, the character and quality of their ecological engagement” (Major and McMurry 2012). Disability studies and ecocriticism also share a critical attention to the built environment, whether as a structure that disables and enables human bodies, or as one that interacts with and integrates into existing ecosystems. Over the last decade, music scholarship on both disability and environmentalism has flourished, contributing to a greater understanding of embodiment, subjectivity, intersectionality, sustainability, and technological mediation in music: disability studies’ and ecocriticism’s common emphasis on activism, inclusive language, and accessibility grounds music scholarship in the social, wedding theory to praxis. Yet rarely have these sub-fields been put into dialogue.
By bringing disability studies, ecocriticism, and music research into new dialogue, this session aims to define our relationship to activism as music scholars involved in personal and/or professional engagement with disability and/or the environment. What are our moral obligations as representatives of “disability and music studies” or “ecomusicology,” and what are the ethical implications of writing about these topics? What tactics can we adopt from on-the-ground grassroots activism? How might we assume the role of public performers as we engage new audiences and new venues beyond academia? How can ecocriticism and disability studies generate new thinking around the human and environmental impact of music’s built-in infrastructures?
In the spirit of public scholarship, we will interrogate how activism can transform the intellectual, methodological, pedagogical, and institutional scope of our disciplines as a matter of un-disciplining. The session will begin with ten-minute lightning talks from our panelists. The session’s panelists represent a diverse range of music specializations and ways of engaging in activism both inside and outside the academy that will enrich existing discourse in musicology and music theory.
Ailsa Lipscombe will discuss how, within medical environments, attentive listening to conversations between the interlocking forces of human, machine, and architecture reveals ways of being and knowing; Jessica Schwartz will present on the role of activism and creative dissent in her research and pedagogy, including a recent course she designed titled “anarcho-musicology: music & anarchism”; William Robin will speak on how Twitter can function as an effective platform for musicologists to amplify activist work; Chantal Lemire will explore the relationship between music pedagogy and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) with reference to her own experience and others who live with ADHD; James Deaville will discuss his ongoing activism over disability rights on campus; and Rachel Mundy will discuss music’s place in the posthuman and material turn, an intervention in today’s discourse of ethics she calls “the animanities.”