International Council for Traditional Music Launches ‘Ground-breaking’ Digital Publication October 2022
Based on the scholarly presentation series, DIALOGUES: Towards Decolonization of Music & Dance Studies
A project two years in the making — on a massive scale involving hundreds of contributors and partipants, among them students and scholars, knowledge-holders and tradition-bearers across geographic miles and time zones, cultural regions, educational methodologies, artistic approaches and modes of thought — culminated with the global release on October 15, 2022 of the digital publication, DIALOGUES: Towards Decolonization of Music and Dance Studies.
This oeuvre, a multi-media ‘book’ comprising video, photography, and both spoken and written word in several languages, came about through an essentially humanitarian mission by the International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM). A scholarly, non-governmental organization now in its 75th year, ICTM acts as a bond among peoples of different cultures, thus contributing to the peace of humankind; its specific aim is to further the study, practice, documentation, preservation and dissemination of traditional music and dance of all countries. Taking action in response to growing global awareness of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) issues, ICTM’s Ethics Committee was tasked, in early 2020, with devising an effective expression of solidarity for social justice. The eventual result was a fusion of ethical standards and actions by ICTM and the Canadian Society for Traditional Music (CSTM), with the ultimate goal of decolonizing ethnomusicology internationally.
Rising to the challenge of fulfilling action and accomplishment during a world-wide pandemic, ICTM members, colleagues and participants were able to meet, converse, communicate, work and achieve through an intensive series of virtual ‘dialogues’ that took place in 2021 — all of which can now be viewed online through this new publication, co-edited by ICTM vice-president Dr. Tan Sooi Beng and ICTM Executive Board member Dr. Marcia Ostashewski.
Featuring transnational debates about decoloniality, praxis, collaborative ethnography, alternative pedagogy, new ways of knowing and more, this digital publication is enlivened by alternative formats such as videos, chats and creative design and can be accessed directly from its website: ictmdialogues.org; in addition, a ‘postlude’ video provides reviews by an esteemed panel whose consensus confirms the publication as having “long-lasting value” both in its field as well as from the standpoint of prioritizing participation by students, scholars and other individuals that have historically been under-represented in scholarship and academic institutions.
“I see the ICTM DIALOGUES not only as a masterful creation but also as an important showcase of continuity,” said Dr. Svanibor Pettan, professor and chair in ethnomusicology at University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and current president of ICTM. “Starting with our new statute, followed by a new declaration of ethical principles and professional integrity, then the ICTM Statement and activities in view of decolonization of music and dance, and finally the surveys that enabled the widest membership to express their thoughts and expectations. To quote one section from the declaration: ‘Our work with others and the potential impact of our work upon others requires us to work for the benefit of those around us through the creation of new knowledge as well as by means of direct action, engagement and the application of knowledge. We strive not only to do no harm but additionally to design our research, teaching and other activities to bring benefit to those who collaborate with us in the study, research and dissemination of music and dance and associated scholarship.’
“I’m highly appreciative of the publication which uses all these multi-media advantages in providing us with very precious content,” Dr. Pettan added. “The co-editors’ introduction provides the readership with rich and beautiful structured data, with many sentences deserving to be extensively quoted… I wish to whole-heartedly congratulate the co-editors, Tan Sooi Beng and Marcia Ostashewski, for their initiative, for the care of the year-long series of online panels and this publication, which is fabulous in so many respects, remarkably fresh, creative, innovative …
“I would say that any internationally respected society would be proud of such a publication.”
Dr. Beverley Diamond, Professor Emeritus at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador and founder of MMaP, the university’s Research Centre for the Study of Music, Media and Place, cited representation of the Global South, use of multiple languages, imaginative approaches to curricular development and the insights and nuances that participants brought to “shades of decoloniality” (quoting presenter Sriradha Paul) as impressive aspects of the digital publication, declaring that, “I truly think that the DIALOGUES may be the most significant initiative we’ve seen in ethnomusicology this far.”
Scholarly advisor at the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research, and professor of ethnomusicology at the University of Zagreb, Croatia, Dr. Naila Ceribašić (additionally ICTM Executive Board member and chair of its Committee on Ethics) echoed congratulations and expressions of gratitude to the initiative’s “contributors, editors and organizers of this ground-breaking and most important project … Let me mention what is obvious: that this publication confirms as unquestionable some ethical principles such as horizontal collaboration with knowledge-holders, responsibility toward social justice, equity, inclusivity and human rights and decolonization of teaching methodologies … The persuasiveness and persistence with which they are spread throughout the publication reduce the space for deviation from these ethical principles — principles being turned into standards of action, and in that sense, I think it is truly a transformative project and resulting publication.”
Dr. Jean Ngoya Kidula, professor of music (ethnomusicology) at the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, University of Georgia, U.S., addressed the co-editors: “You have done amazing work,” adding that it was encouraging to witness ample evidence in the presentations and discussions that people, “whether we study them or not, have been musicking in ways that chipped away at coloniality … I applaud the way the DIALOGUES enabled an exchange of ideas, so that [while] some of the discussions explored local, national or regional issues, the idea that this was a subject that resonated all over the world allows us to see … that we can learn from one another and find solutions.”
The conviction that the DIALOGUES series promoted critical reflection and global concern was underlined by several of the reviewers, each of whom brought their own thoughtful viewpoints and questions. Dr. Kidula admitted to “struggl[ing] with the use of the term ‘decolonialization’ because of its possible implications of its coming from a negative space… I hope we find more positive terms to describe this very important work.”
Dr. Samuel Araujo, professor of ethnomusicology at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and first vice-president of the Society of Ethnomusicology, raised questions of “transforming or just reforming” music and dance study, and emphasized the value of contributing toward “a global public sphere where politics of representation, social environmental justice and of welfare distribution are played out”, with reference to political philosopher Nancy Fraser, and underscoring a central idea espoused by forward-thinkers Ivan Illich and Paulo Freire that goes back decades, that of “planetary conviviality: a means of promoting non-alienating purposeful actions on behalf of mankind and the environment.”
To that end, Dr. Araujo suggested that institutions such as ICTM “are able to congregate relevant interlocutors to … intervene in this debate in a way that is conducive to more balanced ways of planetary conviviality, and we shall pursue this with the same intensity as we have contemplated the histories that affect and are crucial to our field.”
The final reviewer on the postlude panel, Dr. Anthony Seeger, founding curator and director of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and ICTM past-president, lauded the new online publication for its scope, design, visual appeal and attention to detail in including such vital elements as bibliographies and the illustrative world map pinpointing countries related to each of the 24 ICTM DIALOGUES. “It also shows you the places where … it might give us some ideas about the ways of thinking and ways of being that we haven’t yet begun to tap.
“This is a celebration and launch of a lot of hard work,” concluded Dr. Seeger. “I really appreciate the quality of the project. Anybody who stumbles across this, who comes to it and sees the beautiful layout and the pictures will see that this is a very serious — and also not heavily academic — publication that can take them to places they might not have imagined they’d be able to go.”
Sponsorship, Support & Technical Aspects
A generous grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Connections Program provided resources to support the ICTM DIALOGUES and the digital publication and enabled it to be freely available and widely accessible on the World Wide Web. An open-access publication platform known as Scalar, hosted by the University of Southern California, highlights visuals such as images and videos; devoid of advertisements, the ICTM DIALOGUES videos are streamed from the ACENET/The Alliance Cloud space. ACENET is funded by the Canadian federal government, and works in partnership with The Alliance to provide advanced computing resources to Canadian researchers. Their support is provided to the ICTM DIALOGUES through the association of co-editor Dr. Marcia Ostashewski and The Centre for Sound Communities (of which she is founder/director) at Cape Breton University, in Nova Scotia, Canada.
Co-Editor Comments & Acknowledgments
“We have finally finished the book!” announced co-editor Dr. Tan Sooi Beng, professor of ethnomusicology at the School of the Arts, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang. “It has been a long journey but it has also been an incredibly heart-warming experience for Marcia and I to work with all the presenters of the ICTM DIALOGUES and with each other during the past two years. As a post-colonial and member of the Chinese minority in Malaysia who has experienced racism, I have struggled to create spaces for inclusivity and equality through my research, writing and advocacy work. It has been important for me to allow the people I work with to speak using their own languages and in their own terms.
“At the international level, the ICTM DIALOGUES has been a critical project towards this end. The online sessions provided a platform for academics, students, cultural activists, and Indigenous heritage-bearers from around the globe to share their different perspectives and approaches on how to decolonize music and dance studies in different languages. Many Indigenous tradition-bearers and knowledge-holders, especially those from Latin America and Africa, commented that the opportunity to present at the ICTM DIALOGUES has given them confidence to voice their opinions in academic settings.
“Equally significant, the ICTM DIALOGUES have promoted new transnational conversations and collaborations between groups and individuals. Additional outcomes include the publication of essays by some scholars from the Global South in high-impact international journals — in addition to the current digital book — and direct access for knowledge-holders and the public to collections of Indigenous music in the European Sound Archives [Europeana Sounds]. Through this publication, we highlight alternative ways of presentation and publication using videos, images and visualizations; this differs from academic writing.”
Dr. Marcia Ostashewski acknowledged the dedication and involvement of a vast network of groups, departments, institutions and individuals. “As Sooi Beng and I write in our introduction to the volume, this publication has benefited from the ingenuity, creativity, care, hard work and assistance of many people,” she said, naming key contributors and extending “warmest and heartfelt thanks to all of the ICTM DIALOGUES organizers and presenters, and the Indigenous knowledge-holders and culture-bearers for sharing their rich experiences; we could not ask for more.”
1) ICTM DIALOGUES Digital Publication ‘DIALOGUES: Towards Decolonizing Music and Dance Studies’ https://ictmdialogues.org/
From here, access the digital publication in its entirety, including • Table of Contents • About This Book • Introduction • The Dialogues • Postlude: Publication Launch
2) International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM) http://ictmusic.org
3) The Centre for Sound Communities (CSC) https://soundcommunities.org
4) Canadian Society for Traditional Music (CSTM) https://cstm-sctm.ca