Pop Conference 2021

Turn and Face the Change: A Pop Convergence On Music and Flux

April 22-24, 2021

2/22/21 Update: The Programming Committee has made its selections for this spring’s sessions and we’re in the process of organizing the schedule. Excluding evening/keynote events, there will be ~20 day sessions total, split into concurrent programming streams that will take up both Friday, April 23 and Saturday, April 24. There will also be an opening night keynote event on Thursday, April 22 and a special evening’s worth of programming on Friday the 23rd.  We’ll post a final schedule of the presentations and presenters once completed.  

To state the obvious: we find ourselves in the midst of one of the most chaotic and disruptive moments in modern global history. A time marked by political conflicts, demographic shifts, technological interventions and other social upheavals, all under the cloud of a pandemic whose impact will likely reverberate for generations. We find ourselves in a constant state of flux, one that can simultaneously feel terrifying and regressive yet also inspiring and transformative. As with earlier eras of tumult, pop music will emerge as both as a mirror that reflects these changes but also as a hammer to help shape them. 

For all these reasons, we’re re-imagining the 2021 Pop Conference as an online Pop Convergence. Under ordinary circumstances, we would have been celebrating the 20th iteration of the Pop Con but these are not ordinary times. Even as we mark this milestone it’s still not possible for us to reconvene our community in person. But if this next Pop Con needs to stay virtual then we seek to host an event that reflects the state of flux — and potential for transformation — that defines our current reality. 

Our vision of a Pop Convergence is to bring together a creative mix of ideas, outlooks and moods, for three days of programming that explore themes of flux/change/transformation. Proposals can be about the current moment but can also look to past eras of flux or predict future shifts. Though we may miss the opportunity to interact in person, the virtual space creates the potential for new forms of presentations, performances, and engagements. Traditional papers, panels and roundtables are still welcome but given the different nature of our Convergence, we want to embrace fresh conceptions and experimentations in presentation styles and formats. As such, we encourage your submissions to not only consider what you’re presenting on but also how you’re presenting. This is an opportune time to rethink how we engage with another to share ideas and tell stories. 

Lastly, as always, we want to stress that we’re looking for a broad panoply of participants. This is not a space just for scholars, journalists or artists to participate within but pop music enthusiasts of all stripes. 

Here is just a partial list of broad ideas that Pop Convergence presentations might help address. Your submissions don’t need to explicitly answer these questions nor do they need to be as sweeping in scope but we see them as guiding concepts: 

  • What is the role that pop music plays in social change, especially during moments of disruption, transition and upheaval? 
  • How does pop music and musicians respond and relate to disaster, calamity, catastrophe precarity and offer us ways to imagine or reshape the future made by these moments? 
  • How can pop music help us understand and engage with transitions, fluctuations and oscillations in regards to identities, eras, spaces, sounds, etc.? How does pop music relate to changing and shifting borders, binaries, boundaries and different states of being and becoming? 
  • If flux marks a state of in-betweenness, what does pop music teach us about what emerges after in terms of transitions and  metamorphoses? 
  • What does it sound like to be in flux, either in literal or figurative ways?

Proposals are due December 18. Email and attach RTF or Word files (no PDFs) to conference organizer Oliver Wang at proposals@popconference.org. Proposals are limited to one per person (participation on a roundtable does not count towards that limit). Individual proposals should be up to 300 words, with a 75-word bio. For multiple person proposals, include a one-paragraph overview and individual statements of up to 300 words with a 75-word bio for each participant. For roundtables, outline the subject in up to 500 words, include a 75-word bio and email contact for each participant. For all proposals, please describe how you plan on presenting in regards to style/format. 

Questions? Send them to info@popconference.org

2021 Pop Conference Programming Committee: Oliver Wang (Chair, CSU Long Beach), Timothy Anne Burnside (Smithsonian), Martha Gonzalez (Quetzal/Scripps College), Alisha Lola Jones (Indiana University), Jason King (New York University’s Clive Davis Institute), Michelle Habel-Pallan (Univ. of Washington), RJ Smith (Writer), Brittany Spanos (Rolling Stone), Melissa A Weber (Loyola University New Orleans, WWOZ FM)