IASPM-US/POP Conference Round-Up: Tavia Nyong’o

by justindburton on March 29, 2012

In the next few weeks, in the follow-up to the IASPM-US/POP Conference in NYC March 22-25, we’ll be posting several round-ups from those who attended. The goal is to provide a mosaic of several different experiences instead of a single, authoritative account. So each of these will be subjective, focusing on one person’s navigation of the power-packed program of events. Today’s round-up comes from Tavia Nyong’o and can also be seen at his blog. All contributions are welcome, so if you’d like to participate, send yours to justindburton@gmail.com or iaspmus@gmail.com.

Officially it was the double-barreled acronym EMP/IASPM (rhymes with “See ’em pee, I ask ’em”) Pop Conference, presented by Clive Davis or some such. But I’m going to let that one go for the moment, stick with Pop Conference (#PopCon), and just say what an amazing, exhausting three days it was. The closest I get to a lost weekend these days. Some highlights:

  • José Muñoz, Tim Lawrence, Jack Halberstam, and Alexandra Vazquez on the musical undercommons of punk, disco, 2-tone, and “the Miami sound.” Lots of swamp things, ghost notes, and undead rumbles clambering out of this panel I will need to revisit.
  • Owen Pallett favoriting a tweet of mine. You could’ve knocked me over with a feather.
  • Koushik Banerjea’s heartrending tribute to his recently passed father, by way of a meditation on the vertical sounds of the tower blocks of Lewisham, his former self as a teenage black skinhead, and post-riot London as a city of the dead.
  • Wayne Marshall, Julianne Shepherd, and Cluster Mag‘s Max Pearl and Alexis Stephens rapid fire analyses of trending, twittering, and microgenres appearing and dissolving before my eyes. And in the center, the permanent haptic memory of vogueing and ballroom (a memory for me stuck permanently in 1994-95 although they schooled me on how the culture has lived on in a literal global underground). Prized if passing moments with the real Ned Ragget (who has a twitter impersonator now, he tells me.was recently impersonated by someone trying to get into a SXSW event. This is both a small honor and source of real paranoia, I would imagine). Equally prized exchanges over twitter, as he indefatigably annotated more panels than it seems humanly possible.
  • Erik Lott, Gus Stadler, and Bryan Waterman on Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol, and Television. Topics I have an uneven personal interest/investment in but I would listen to these gentlemen and scholars discourse on for days.

    Luis-Manuel looking hella sharp.

  • Jason King, Alexander Weheliye, Luis-Manuel Garcia (stand-out style at a stylish conference) digging in the crates of Berlin techno, and blowing off the dust of a mythic white past that has settled over musics far more hybrid and complex than current marketing campaigns promote.
  • Meeting DJ Rupture and interviewing Mendi Obadike.
  • Daphne Brooks, Jayna Brown, and Farah Jasmine Griffin on black feminist revisionings of Porgy and Bess, afrofuturism, and jazz respectively. Also amazing, prismatic papers, and Brooks’ final image of Trayvon Martin, reading “Summertime” as a chronotope of black parental care for children sent out into a world of danger, that just tore me apart.

There was tons more, including a bumper crop of great analyses of queer and trans musicking that I am happy to take credit for (I’m joking)and just the general conviviality of having Pop Con on home turf, with excellent coffee and food within a short walk. Thanks to the hard working genius of Eric Weisbard, Ann Powers, and Jason King, I think this was the best Pop Conference yet! I’ll let Fun. and Janelle Monáe express my otherwise inexpressible joy, exhaustion, gratitude, and inspiration.


The research interests of Tavia Nyong’o include the intersections of race and sexuality, visual art and performance, and cultural history. He teaches courses on black performance, the history of the body, and subcultural performance. His book, The Amalgamation Waltz: Race, Performance, and the Ruses of Memory (University of Minnesota Press, 2009), investigates musical, aesthetic, and political practices that conjoined blackness and whiteness in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He is the web editor of Social Text.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: