Call For Papers: “A Music So Popular That No Curtain Could Contain: Popular Music and Cultural Transfers during the Cold War” International Workshop, on December 5, 2022, at NEC

14 October 2022

It has been a long standing academic mantra that, during the Cold War, the Socialist Bloc was more or less a closed system, made of several satellite states which followed the communist path, as designed by the USSR. Over the past decade, cutting-edge scholarship has started to dismantle this mantra and show that the Socialist Bloc was a much more complex and heterogeneous system than previously considered. East European socialist states had different political, economic, cultural and (last but not least) historical backgrounds, and they followed different paths during the Cold War period as well. Furthermore, despite collective endeavors within the Bloc, each state sought to establish its own connections with other states from the Global South, or with capitalist states.

Given its global dynamic during the second half of the 20th century, popular music can prove to be an extremely fruitful ground of research for analyzing the cultural differences between socialist states, as well as the cultural transfers between these states and the Global South or the capitalist West. From local, regional, or national folk influences, to Western based, but global reaching music genres, such as jazz, or rock, from national scenes of light music, to crossovers stemming from classical music, popular music has provided researchers with an immense canvas, which has been thus far covered only in part.

The purpose of the workshop “Popular Music and Cultural Transfers during the Cold War” is to investigate the means through which popular music developed in the Eastern Bloc and circulated across  borders and the Iron Curtain (on either side). In particular, we are interested in exploring how popular music was influenced by cultural, technological, and informal transfers, by the larger processes of modernization and development of leisure life, as well as by institutional cooperation between various states, either within the Socialist Bloc, or beyond it.

We seek to provide answers (as well as new research questions) to topics such as:

  • the circulation of records, audio tapes, VHS tapes, instruments, music magazines, with socialist states as exporters, or importers of such goods (either officially, or informally);
  • the development of transnational popular music scenes, as influenced by cultural ties, trans-border, and institutional cooperation;
  • East-West institutional and cultural cooperation and how it influenced the development of local popular music scenes;
  • cultural relations between socialist states and the Global South and the impact they had on both sides;
  • the development of tourism and transport routes and their impact on local popular music scenes;
  • classical music and classical music institutions and their influence on popular music, in the context of international collaborations;
  • the appropriation of Western based music genres, such as jazz or rock music in local scenes from the Socialist Bloc;
  • national record industries and their development within the framework of Cold War transfers.

Further topics which revolve around the main idea of the workshop are also welcome.

Those interested in taking part are kindly asked to submit a 300 word paper proposal and a 100 word short bio to the following address:

Deadline for submission: November 10, 2022.

We intend to publish the papers, in extended and revised form, in an edited volume. When submitting your paper proposal, please mention whether you are also interested in contributing to this volume.

The workshop will be held in a hybrid form. We invite presentations to be held online, or on site, at New Europe College, in Bucharest, Romania.

Working language: English.

Organizers: Claudiu Oancea (Project Director, New Europe College); New Europe College.

This workshop is organized within the framework of the project “Rocking under the Hammer and the Sickle: Popular Music in Socialist Romania between Ideology and Entertainment (1948-1989)”, supported by a grant of the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digitization, CNCS – UEFISCDI, project number PN-III-P1-1.1-PD-2021-0244 within PNCDI III.