Symposium CFP: Diva: Hip-Hop, Feminism, Fierceness

Centre for Film, Media, Discourse & Culture, University of Wolverhampton


The shift from the margins to the mainstream has occurred simultaneously, over the last few decades, for two groups that now jointly exert a central influence over contemporary culture and politics: female r’n’b and hip-hop artists, and feminist thinkers and activists. The coming together of these two groups and sensibilities has redefined contemporary popular music (in all senses of musics of black origin), and wider culture and politics, in the West – from the banlieues to the White House, from Black Lives Matter to #MeToo, from Betty Davis to Neneh Cherry, TLC to Aaliyah, Alicia Keys to Iggy Azalea, Beyonce to Arianna Grande, and all points in between.


The symposium will seek to address this ongoing development, within the scope of exploring the origins of this shift, its resultant successes and failures, its social activism and relationship to “Black Capitalism”, its identity politics and LGBTQ+ components, its saints and sinners and controversies old and new, and its oppositions to, and recuperations by, the establishment, in African-American and Afro-European contexts, and beyond.


The symposium will culminate with a rare opportunity to view the documentary “Aaliyah Live in Amsterdam”, introduced (and with a Q&A) by its director, Dr. Pogus Caesar: “In 1995, Windrush Productions gained exclusive access to the Amsterdam leg of Aaliyah’s European tour. As well as capturing live footage of the concert, Aaliyah and her late father agreed to be interviewed, in a series of intimate conversations, they speak openly about her musical influences, achievements hopes and dreams. The film captures a star in their ascendancy. As the story unfolds it provides fans with a rare insight into Aaliyah, and leaves us wondering how much she would have achieved had her life not been tragically cut short.” Trailer:


The symposium will open with a keynote lecture by Dr. Kirsty Fairclough (Associate Dean, Research & Innovation, Schools of Arts & Media, University of Salford): “I Slay: Beyonce as Intersectional Feminist, Activist and Diva”


Proposals for presentations (individual and panel) and interventions should be emailed to Dr Benjamin Halligan ( by 14 June 2019. (Word format, 200-300 words, minimal formatting, including biog note and contact information). Areas to be considered can include (but are not limited to) all music-related matters identified above, the evolution of the figure of the diva, trans cultures and fierceness and diva-ism, media around diva superstars (documentaries, tabloid exposes, MTV and post-MTV music videos, star identity formations, intimacy and interviews), confessions and hagiographies, #MeToo, and all other cultural practices that resonate with this development (fine arts, poetry and literature, DJ cultures and dance, film and television), and the protean nature of feminism, and black feminism, and second to third waves of feminism, that have arisen.


The symposium, which is hosted by the Centre for Film, Media, Discourse & Culture, University of Wolverhampton, will run on 17 July 2019. The registration fee will be £30 (£15 for unwaged, free for all postgraduate researchers). A limited budget is available to reimburse childcare costs, upon application, if that will enable attendance: please enquire. The full programme, and booking details, will be published by 24 June 2019.

**Booking information, and further guest announcements, forthcoming**


Dr Pogus Caesar is a conceptual artist utilising multiple media. He was born in St Kitts, West Indies, and grew up in Birmingham, England.

In 2018 Caesar was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Birmingham City University for his outstanding contribution to the visual arts.

He has documented prominent figures and historical events such as the Handsworth Riots in 1985, a significant period of social unrest. He often reworks 35mm negatives into new forms, challenging the notion of religion, sex, history and identity from a Black British perspective. Caesar has also had a successful career in television producing and directing programmes for Carlton TV, Central TV and BBC.


Considered an important visual record of black history, Caesar’s work has been exhibited widely and his photographs and artworks have been acquired by National Portrait Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum, Mappin Art Gallery, Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.


Dr Kirsty Fairclough is Associate Dean: Research and Innovation in the School of Arts and Media at the University of Salford, UK. She is the co-editor of The Music Documentary: Acid Rock to Electropop (Routledge), The Arena Concert: Music, Media and Mass Entertainment (Bloomsbury) and Music/Video: Forms, Aesthetics, Media (Bloomsbury), and co-author of the forthcoming The Purple Papers: Prince, An Interdisciplinary Life. kirstyHer work has been published in Senses of Cinema, Feminist Media Studies, SERIES and Celebrity Studies journals. Kirsty recently developed the University of Salford Popular Culture Conference series which has included “I’ll See You Again in 25 Years: Twin Peaks and Generations of Cult Television”, “Mad Men: The Conference”, and in May 2017, “Purple Reign: An Interdisciplinary Conference on the Life and Legacy of Prince”.

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