On the Pursuit of Equity in Transnational Music Academia
We write, as the graduate-student organizers of Project Spectrum, to clarify our position on several themes that arose after our first session of Diversifying Music Academia: Building the Coalition.
To begin with labor: we, seven Black, POC, and/or transnational graduate students (a majority of whom are not cis-men, and a majority of whom are queer), are the primary organizers and laborers behind Project Spectrum. We strive to use our institutional and relative financial privilege to create spaces for marginalized scholars to be heard in ways that we have rarely witnessed ourselves during our time in music academia. We are deeply grateful for the support of our affiliate board, but we graduate students take on the bulk of the labor, ranging from preparing (external) grant proposals, to corresponding with panelists and presenters, to navigating the technical and logistical difficulties of holding a virtual symposium. Furthermore, the labor behind our symposium has been completed during a global pandemic and amidst the continued state-sanctioned murders of Black people and subsequent community responses. And yet, we have striven to use these injustices to fuel our commitment to this ever-important work. We hope that you view the production of our symposium with these circumstances in mind.
Regarding our programming, we did not make a concerted effort to represent perspectives from outside of Canada and the United States in our Insights session. This is a deficit that we openly acknowledge. Even though Project Spectrum’s explicit focus has always been the transformation of “North American music academia,” it is undeniable that a “U.S.” event—because of the global flow of power—is never simply a national event. As a result of the pandemic, the scope of our event was unexpectedly expanded from a local to an international audience whom we were not prepared to properly include. We accept the criticism that we have received, and apologize for any harm that our action in response to the pandemic has caused to the music studies community. We have learned as much as any other attendees during the symposium, and we are grateful for the opportunity to grow. But to be clear: we stand firmly behind the value and importance of the insights that were shared during our symposium. We encourage all to revisit these presentations and reflect on the vital, transformative ideas shared by the presenters.
We affirm the importance of representing voices that have been historically ignored in U.S./Canadian contexts, particularly Black and Indigenous voices and those from the Global South. Project Spectrum will continue to deeply consider how we can work against the effects of U.S. imperialism and settler colonialism within the geopolitical contexts of North American music studies. As we have learned from our most recent symposium, combating anti-Black racism and settler colonialism in music studies remains an urgent pursuit internationally.
As minoritized graduate students who are only minimally compensated for our labor, the truth is that our time, energy, and resources are limited. But we are committed to creating space for necessary conversations that have been historically silenced, and to sustaining coalition across borders of all kinds. To these ends, we extend an invitation to scholar-activists working against North American supremacy in the global academy: if you are organizing an initiative or event with these aims, we want to use our platform to connect your project to the communities within our reach. Please reach out. We can only do so much of the work required to address issues of power and inequity in the academy, but we look forward to doing our part to facilitate coalition among scholar-activists working toward these vital goals.