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The University of Southampton
MusicPart of Humanities

Mini-Hartley Residency with Dr Shzr Ee Tan, Royal Holloway, University of London Seminar

13:30 - 15:45
17 March 2021
Online event (Microsoft Teams)

For more information regarding this seminar, please email Hettie Malcomson at .

Event details

This public online event will take place on Microsoft Teams. If you are not a staff or student at University of Southampton and would like to attend, please contact Hettie Malcomson at

The music department is delighted to welcome Dr Shzr Ee Tan for an online Mini-Hartley Residency 

Event details

1.30-2.30pm - talk: Wearing Ethnomusicology: cultural appropriation/ appreciation and performative representation

This paper attempts a holistic investigation of multiplicities in the visual performativity of clothing in ethnomusicological practice in the academy, the field and in everyday life. Drawing from my own experiences in research environments, the classroom and conferences, as well as candid interviews with ethnomusicologists and music researchers encountered through social and professional settings, I look at how clothes are worn and presented/ photographed/ imaged and re-mediated. The context of my investigation is set amidst evolving debates on cultural appropriation, feminist movements, notions of professionalism, ritual requirements of dress, the wider societal disciplining of the human body and, finally, ease of comfort. My case studies include how the batik print is gendered, represented and signified in different ways when worn by men versus women performers/ music scholars, and in clothing versus accessories, in the (for example) different territories of Indonesia, Hawaii and sub-Saharan Africa.

I also consider how ‘traditional’ and neotraditional ‘fusion’ costumes, as well as ‘concert black’ kit vs casual jeans are worn in ritual or performance settings by insiders versus outsiders, and by cultural (non) bearers on different calibrations of ‘contextual requirement’ and ‘musical privilege’. Here I discuss different approaches to professional representation, decorum and career-branding at conferences, performance arenas, in the classroom and in the course of fieldwork. In the ensuing process, I also consider the conflicting demands of practical convenience in dressing/ travelling/ ‘fitting in’, artist’s license in choice of clothing, and fashion expectations of academic researchers and classroom facilitators in different - often intersecting - playing fields. In doing so, I come to conclusions on how the wearing of ethnomusicology in theory, practice and in constantly-remediated images continue to assemble well as disassemble identities, divides and ways of being. 

2.45 – 3.45pm - student session:  Workshop on decolonizing music pedagogies/ race in music studies

Shzr Ee Tan is a Senior Lecturer and ethnomusicologist (with a specialism in Sinophone and Southeast Asian worlds) at Royal Holloway, University of London. She is interested in impact-based issues of music and decolonisation, aspirational cosmopolitanism, and race discourses in music scenes around the world (including HE), with a view towards understanding marginality through the lenses of intersectionality. In June 2020 with Kiku Day she organised the webinar Orchestrating Isolation: Musical Interventions and Inequality in the COVID-19 Fallout, calling to attention the pandemic-led devastation caused to musicians, freelancers and researchers in precarious labour, even traumatic losses of artists, investigators and teachers to the disease were mourned. 

In 2019 with Mai Kawabata she initiated the project 'Cultural Imperialism and the 'New Yellow Peril' in Western Art Music', which has gained considerable traction among East Asian music communities around the world and turned her towards more activist-informed scholarship and teaching. 

Other projects she is developing include musical theorizing on decolonization and issues of cultural appropriation, including an investigation into racist reactions to the ‘problem’ of China as a politico-cultural heavyweight/ new imperialist influence. In her broader work on decolonization she stakes a commitment to collaborative ethnography in a development/ impact-based ethnographic project with transient workers in Southeast Asia, in exploration of Islamic soundscapes in Chinese transnational contexts. She is also exploring alternative ontologies and pedagogies in the disciplining and institutionalisation of musical practices in China in transnational and international interaction with higher education institutions around the world. This research has been motivated in part by changes (and resulting conversations on flashpoint topics of race and immigration) in the global higher education sector, as a result of large-scale transnational (transient) Chinese student enrolment in music programmes around the world, as well American, European and Asian establishment of China-based campuses. 

Her writings have appeared/ will appear in imprints by Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, Palgrave Macmillan and Routledge, among other publishers. Recent scholarly work includes Digital Inequality and Global Sounds (CUP), an article in (and co-editing of) Music, Indigeneity and Digital Media (Univerisity of Rochester Press; Hilder, Stobart and Tan), an article and co-editing of Gender in Chinese Music (University of Rochester Press; Harris, Pease & Tan), plus a monograph, “Beyond Innocence”: Amis Aboriginal Song in Taiwan as an Ecosystem (Ashgate).

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