Explore UCD

UCD Home >
overlay image

Music and Pleasure before the Law

International Conference
28 - 29 June 2023

On This Page


Today, scholars interested in expanding and diversifying the way we think music and sex together are faced with a rift between intellectual and political landscapes. On the one hand, such inquiry has been legitimized by more than thirty years of scholarship that has celebrated music’s capacity to represent myriad sexual experiences and identities, as well as its ability to engender radical, destabilizing forms of sonic pleasure. On the other, recent successful political and legal efforts to curtail sexual rights in the name of moral or religious objection are unwinding gains made from identity-based political action. To better navigate this climate, we seek to step back from the traditional focus on how musicians or musical works represent specific sexual desires and identities to interrogate the larger institutional, administrative, and discursive forces that conterminously shape the history of music and sexuality.

Intentionally returning to Foucault’s interest in the emergence and productivity of disciplinary practices, this conference aims to examine moments where music and pleasure have been brought together before the law or, more generally, any authoritative discourse which purports to regulate human behavior. Inviting scholars to share diverse historical and cultural situations, we intend to collectively and investigate the following questions:  To what extent have legal or doctrinal discourses considered music and sexuality as analogous issues? What are the shared tactics used to regulate or manage musical and sexual behaviors? What actions have been taken by marginalized individuals or groups to undercut, evade, or reform discourses that limited musical and sexual freedom? What methodological, theoretical, or conceptual resources are needed to tackle such issues? Responding to these questions, we hope to consider how our reactions to contemporary sexual politics can draw from those who have previously encountered the varied, but historically persistent forces that attempt to bring order to the unruly world of sexual and musical experience.

The conference will be held at University College Dublin on 28 - 29 June 2023. Our discussion will culminate in a keynote address given by Professor Suzanne Cusick (New York University).

Call for Papers

We invite abstracts of up to 300 words for individual or co-authored paper to be submitted through this proposal form by 12 February 2023 (deadline extended). While preference will be given to those who can intend in-person, we are happy to consider proposals for remote presentations to allow for those unable to travel to Dublin to participate. Applicants will be notified of their acceptance by 20 February 2023 and all papers will be considered for publication as part of a peer-reviewed special issue, with the selection, expansion, and revision process to be completed within a year of the conference.

Conference Details

DateAbstracts Due: 12 February 2023

LocationSchool of Music, University College Dublin

OrganisersDr Kyle Kaplan, Dr Matthew Thomson, music.pleasure.law@gmail.com

Abstract Submission Form

Possible Topics Include:

  • Laws, canons, and regulations pertaining to music and sexual behavior.
  • Exemplary scandals or court cases in the history of music and sexuality.
  • Regulation of performers’ sexuality (either real or imagined).
  • Music and sex under colonial administration.
  • Transnational and comparative studies of music and law.
  • Policing tactics, censorship, or punishment of sexual/sonic transgressions.
  • Foucauldian approaches to the history of music and sexuality.
  • Biopolitics, reproduction, and the normalization of music/sound.
  • Definitions of musical or sonic obscenity.
  • Musical/sonic pleasure and morality.
  • Music and (sexual) repression.
  • Music and (sexual) liberation or protest.

With thanks to our Conference sponsors

SMI LogoThresholds of Knowledge Sponsor Logo

UCD School of Music

Newman Building, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
T: +353 1 716 8178 | E: music@ucd.ie