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The Anthropology Departmental Seminar. Music, Mediation Theories and Actor-Network Theory: A discussion

with Georgina Born, University of Oxford

2019.06.26 | Mia Korsbæk

Date Wed 04 Sep
Time 10:00 12:00
Location The Lecture Hall Moesgård (4206, 139)

Music, Mediation Theories and Actor-Network Theory: A discussion


In this seminar, I present a recent introductory paper for an issue of the Contemporary Music Review. The issue contains papers employing theories of mediation that have emerged in recent years in relation to music – including my own and versions influenced by Latour. The impetus for the issue came from a program of ethnographic studies addressing how music is being transformed around the world by digitisation and digital media. In the first half of the introduction I outline the development of mediation theories for music, their variety and sources – for example, my own approach draws on Gell’s Art and Agency  (Born 2005). In the second half, I develop a sustained critique of the limits of Latour. I register a series of propitious approaches to mediation signalled by the journal contributors that redress certain limits of Latour, while responding to the demands posed by musics specificity. They are: the need to pursue a subtler form of (ethnographic or historical) empiricism than that advocated by Latour; the need to cross scales in analysis, with reference to music’s social, temporal and material mediations, linked to questions of power; the challenge of theorising subjectivities, aesthetic and affective processes; and questions of ontology. In the seminar I will focus on these matters and suggest that music highlights these limits of Latour – which are, however, more general.



Georgina Born is Professor of Music and Anthropology, University of Oxford, and Honorary Professor of Anthropology at UCL (where she took her doctorate). Her work crosses four disciplines: anthropology, sociology, music and (new/digital) media studies. Currently she is writing a proposal for a new research program on music and artificial intelligence.

Seminar, Antropologi