The Call

We invite you to submit an abstract for a paper or a performance proposal for the conference “Precarious Sounds / Sounding Sanctuary” to be held February 16-17, 2018 and featuring Professor Josh Kun giving the keynote address. The conference is hosted by the Faculty of Arts and Science Music Department at New York University in New York City.

What are the sounds of precarity? The term “precarity” has been used across the humanities and social science fields to describe vulnerable modes of existence, especially as these lives participate in and are impacted by global financial systems, environmental degradation, group antagonisms, and structures of feeling.

We begin by acknowledging colonialism and capitalism as root problems that contribute to the precarity of our times, marked by widespread exploitation of the many by the few. Such exploitation results in varying degrees of vulnerability, insecurity, and uncertainties for humans as well as other inhabitants of Earth.

As music and sound scholars, we ask: What does this precarity sound like? How have music and sound strengthened communities’ resolve to live, persist, and resist as oceans, poverty, intolerance, and fascism rise? What relation do sounds and activism bear on the fight against precarity, as its condition of possibility? How can sound and music scholarship contribute to this activism?

At this conference, we invite critical approaches to the ways sound and music make, manifest, and mobilize against various kinds of precarity. We are particularly interested in sound and music’s role in the struggle against the insecurity of disenfranchised, displaced, refugee, and targeted peoples since the War on Terror. We welcome work that brings historical moments into conversation with our present conjuncture. We also seek work that critically expands or even challenges prevalent conceptions of sound, activism, and precarity, and creatively brings these terms into relation.


Topic examples include, but are not limited, to the following:

Vulnerability – The many frameworks that grow out of and feed into precarity—past and present— including late capitalist exploitation, Islamophobia and the “Muslim travel ban,” deportation and forced resettlement, state surveillance, police brutality, racial nationalism, permanent states of exception, and crisis ordinaries

“Human” “rights” – Defining the human and concomitant frameworks of rights as they determine paths to citizenship, asylum, and refugee status, especially in the contexts of multiculturalisms; the ways sound is mobilized in the judicial and the carceral systems

Sanctuary – The sounds and musics of safe harbor; how communities organize and allocate resources to those made especially vulnerable by biased policies, and how their humanist forms of aid form more just, prefigurative societies

Activism and Movement Building – Indigenous struggles for social and environmental justice, labor organizing, DREAMers movement building, urban clashes with police and protesters, mobilizing against hate crimes, and ethnographies and critical histories of soundful activists

Hearing Power – Sound studies and music scholarship that contribute critical insights to the histories, logics, and methods of agents of precarity; critical pedagogies of music and sound; scholarship and other forms of writing as a kind of acoustic sousveillance

Submission Information & Guidelines

This conference comes out of discussion surrounding our department’s support of the movement to create sanctuary on our campus. This movement fights for material, legal, and emotional support for undocumented community members and for those affected by recent federal US travel restrictions. We hope for this conference to continue and nuance the conversation about sanctuary spaces, migration, immigration, and precarity.

(1) Call for Papers

We welcome abstracts from all scholars at all stages of their careers, activists, artists, and musicians who engage with music and sound. We ask that abstracts be submitted into our online submission system, and each will receive receipt upon successful submission. Abstracts will be anonymously peer reviewed and authors will be notified on November 21st. A limited number of travel and accommodation subsidies will be awarded to presenters.

Paper Submission Instructions

Please submit paper abstracts of no more than 300 words using the submission system linked here:

(2) Call for Staged/Street/Participatory Performances and Sound Installations

We invite proposals for a performance or installation of any genre and discipline for the conference, with content that corresponds to the conference call and theme.

Category 1: Staged performances

A proposed work (or set) for stage performance(s) within 20 minutes is strongly encouraged. Works may involve live performers, electronic sounds, and/or video projection. For technical support, we can provide a digital mixer, microphones, up to 12-channel sound system, projector and projection screen, and basic lighting system. All artists are responsible for their performers if necessary.

Category 2: Street and/or participatory performances

We also welcome performance proposals that have a participatory element or involve public space within one mile of the Washington Square NYU campus. This type of proposal allows maximum 90 minutes, including the commute time going to the performance space and returning to campus. We might also be able to provide a large indoor space if needed. Please indicate this need specifically in your proposal.

Category 3: Sound/video installation

For this category, we are looking for sound and/or video installations that can be on display throughout the conference. We can provide up to a 12-channel sound system and at most two video projectors. Artists are also welcome to bring their own equipment if necessary. Please specify in your technical rider any equipment that you will provide yourself.

Performance Submission Instructions

Please use the link to the Google Form below to submit your proposal. The entire submission should be anonymous. ***Please keep your personal information separate from the supporting materials (e.g. scores and any audio or video). If the links to your supporting materials are private links, please also provide the password.***

In the submission form, we ask for your name, email, biography, work title, links to instances of the work and/or work samples, type of performance, duration, technical rider, and a 300 word description of the work/performance.

We encourage innovative ways to approach these performances. Please be creative and surprise us with your ideas! Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

To submit your performance proposal, please click on the following link:


Dates and Deadlines

Conference date: February 16-17, 2018

[New] Extended Deadline for abstracts and proposals: November 5, 2017 at 11:59pm

Notification of acceptance: November 21, 2017

Abstract word limit: 300 words

For inquiries, contact:

Graduate Committee Members: Elisa Corona Aguilar, Derek Baron, Merche Blasco, Daphne Carr, Samantha Cooper, Brian Fairley, Chui Wa Ho, Jane Kozey, Chris Nickell, Grace Osborne
Marcus Pyle, Viola Yip, Sofy Yuditskaya

Faculty Advisor: Christine Dang