Music in Detention, Two-Day International Conference

Music in Detention

Two-Day International Conference

15-16 March 2013 at Paulinerkirche, Papendiek 14, 37073 Göttingen

Research Group “Music, Conflict and the State”, University of Goettingen

This two-day conference explores the use of music in detention. The recent exposure of music’s role in the so-called “War on Terror” has opened up the debate on the political misuses of music, and on its capacity to damage subjectivity. The history of music’s use in prison cells and detention and labour camps is long and understudied. The use of music against prisoners during detention and interrogation, not only in the form of forced singing but also as part of interrogation techniques, is gradually being documented. Among other uses, music has been deployed as a tool of re-education (so-called “brainwashing”) in prison and labour camps. The spatio-temporal map of such abuses is global and includes different historical times and contexts: from the Gulag and Nazi concentration camps to internment camps in the World War II context, to the practices of military Juntas in Greece, Portugal, Chile and Argentina, and more recently to prisons in Turkey, prison and labour camps in China, and the infamous Guantanamo detention camp, just to name a few.

Moving beyond the one-dimensional perception of music as an invariably emancipatory, uplifting and enlightening art-form, this conference explores the ways in which music has been implicated in regimes of social repression and terror. Instrumentalized in the context of war and security strategies, music been used to target and damage the subjectivity of opponents and prisoners. The conference encompasses a broad range of historical periods. Given the complexity of such experiences, interest is not limited exclusively to music’s negative impacts. Case studies, histories, testimonies, and theoretical and methodological approaches are invited. Earlier forms of detention and punishment are of particular interest. Exploration of medical and legal aspects are also welcome, as are papers that focus on the traumatization of subjectivity.

The conference is interdisciplinary, welcoming papers from across disciplines including musicology, history, trauma studies, human rights law, comparative literature, psychology, psychoanalysis and medicine. Human rights organizations and activists have also been invited to submit proposals.

Topics include:

  • Music in detention
  • Music and punishment
  • Music and torture, or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment

  • Music in interrogation
  • Music and re-education
  • Music in prison/labour camps
  • Legal aspects of music in detention
  • Medical effects of music torture

The conference language will be English.
For further information, please contact Dr. Anna Papaeti: