Music and Political Democratisation in Late Twentieth Century
18 June 2020
University of Huddersfield
This event aims to innovatively question how musical practices formed ways of imagining democracy in the democratic transitions that took place after Portugal’s ‘Carnation Revolution’ in 1974 – what Huntington (1991) called the ‘third wave’ of democratisation, which involves more than 60 countries throughout Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Rather than studying music’s diverse deployments within these political contexts (music ‘in’ transitions to democracy), this study day places the emphasis upon ways in which music embodies democratisation processes and participates in the wider social struggle to define freedom and equality for the post-authoritarian era (hence the ‘and’ in the title of the event).
As political science has shown, democracy is a highly contested category, one that has been imagined in many different ways, and any particular realisation of which carries costs as well as benefits. According to the historian of democracy Pierre Rosanvallon, the rise of democracy has historically represented both a promise and a problem for a society: ‘a promise insofar as democracy reflected the needs of societies founded on the dual imperative of equality and autonomy; and a problem, insofar as these noble ideals were a long way from being realized’ (2008:2). These complex facets of democracy became especially apparent in the political context of transition to democracy after an authoritarian regime, leading to a struggle between different ‘ideas’ of democracy (Albertus and Menaldo, 2018).
Thus, this study day also seeks to engage in a comparative discussion of how music framed different ideas of democracy in post-authoritarian transitions during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. How did musical practices instantiate ideas of democracy in these political contexts? Inversely, how did such democratic values inform musical practice? How did musicians negotiate between creative autonomy and social responsibility? And more broadly, what is the role of musical culture in a transition to democracy?