Performing Diaspora 2013 Conference Theme Announced!

Performing Diaspora 2013: The History of Urban Music in Toronto, will be a one day conference on May 25 2013, focused on the development of the African Canadian Urban Music culture industry of post-WWII Toronto. In keeping with its mandate of “Spotlighting and Promoting African Canadian Experiences” (S.P.A.C.E.), an initiative of the Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on the Global Migrations of African Peoples, is organizing this one day conference to feature academics, musicians, industry and media professionals who have been central to the development and sustenance of African Canadian music in Toronto, as well as throughout Canada.

The conference will include four sessions, each of which will consider the histories and developments of Urban Music within the greater Toronto area, and the degree to which these new forms of music-making were accepted and integrated into the already existing Toronto music infrastructure of the post-WWII era. These panels will also pay particular attention to the development of the Urban Music genre in relation to Canadian culture at large, concepts of multiculturalism and diaspora, and notions of “performing blackness”.

Given the intention of prominently featuring the voices of African Canadians, this day-long conference, particularly those panels that feature the history-makers, will be recorded and later transcribed, in an effort to collect the oral histories and create a record of the diverse set of experiences under examination. In addition, the academic papers that are accepted for inclusion in the day’s events will also be included in a Performing Diaspora publication of working papers, published at a later date.

Though the focus of this conference will be music, each panel will use the genre of “urban culture” in order to explore the genre’s relationship to issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, the body, immigration, multiculturalism, discrimination, urban development, notions of citizenship (both within the nation and within the musical community of Canada), and the benefits, challenges and poltics of creating, sustaining and performing music that represents people of African decent in Toronto.

We hope to use this event in order to foster a sense of musical community and to highlight the diverse nature of culture in Toronto, as well as to acknowledge the history of music-making by African descended people in Toronto. We also hope to generate genuine and meaningful discussions about the relationship between art, nation, multiculturalism, performance and identity (both diasporic and otherwise). More generally, we hope to generate interest and appreciation for the arts and its cultural contributions to the history of Toronto and Canada at large.