Gagaku: Cultural Capital, Cultural Heritage, and Cultural Identity Critical Interventions Lab (Symposium and Workshops) at the University of California, Santa Barbara, June 15-17, 2020

Fabio RAmbelli's picture
Call for Papers
January 15, 2020
California, United States
Subject Fields: 
Japanese History / Studies, East Asian History / Studies, Asian History / Studies, Music and Music History

Call for Papers

Gagaku: Cultural Capital, Cultural Heritage, and Cultural Identity

Critical Interventions Lab (Symposium and Workshops) at the University of California, Santa Barbara, June 15-17, 2020


Gagaku (the ceremonial music of the Japanese imperial court) has long being ignored in scholarship on the cultural and intellectual history of Japan. Its archaic nature, together with its association with the imperial court, have contributed to the modern creation of an image of Gagaku as something minor and unrelated to the Japanese people at large and its historical and intellectual developments. However, in the past couple of decades, the number of people (in Japan and abroad) learning Gagaku music and Bugaku dance has grown. Importantly, new scholarship has moved away from traditional musicology (mainly concerned with organology and music theory) towards cultural and intellectual history. This shift has promoted the study of heretofore ignored materials and has yielded new discoveries. We now begin to see the existence of vast networks of Gagaku performers throughout Edo period Japan, centered on professional musicians (gakunin) from Kyoto, Osaka and Nara, connecting the imperial court with the Bakufu, samurai in numerous feudal domains, hundreds of temples and shrines, and even amateur performers in big cities. In the second half of the Edo period, Gagaku became a philosophical and political issue, when intellectuals began to discuss the metaphysical principles of Gagaku music as a key connecting the cosmic order with the political ordering of society. In addition, the imperial court and other agents leveraged Gagaku as “cultural capital” that resulted in increased influence and authority. The cultural capital of Gagaku was based on its special status as “cultural heritage” from a distant past, something that was re-elaborated in the modern era in relation to new discourses about Japanese cultural identity.


This Critical Interventions Lab will gather international scholars engaged in cutting-edge research on the cultural history of Gagaku, with special focus on the Edo period and the modern era. Languages of the presentations and discussions are English and Japanese. We seek paper proposals from junior scholars (including advanced graduate students) who work on the social, cultural, and intellectual dimensions of Gagaku from the late Muromachi period until today. We are especially interested in papers dealing with Gagaku in a transnational perspective, such as Gagaku’s equivalents in other East Asian areas (China and Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam) and Gagaku’s impact on international contemporary music. The presenters of selected papers will be offered their travel expenses (up to $700), hotels (4 nights) and meals during the conference. We plan to publish selected papers from the conference in an edited volume.


Proposals should include a title and a 300-word abstract, and should be accompanied by a CV of the presenter.


The deadline for submitting paper proposals is January 15, 2020.


Paper proposals and inquiries should be addressed to Fabio Rambelli:



This Critical Interventions Lab will take place at the University of California, Santa Barbara, a leading institution known for its innovative research on Japanese culture. Organized by Fabio Rambelli, this is the first of three Critical Interventions Labs, as part of the larger project “Japanese Culture En Route: Transnational Currents and Connections in Japanese Performing Traditions” funded by a Japan Foundation Institutional Project Support grant (Ref. No. 10121178).

Contact Info: 

Fabio Rambelli, Professor of Japanese Religions and Intellectual HIstory and ISF Endowed Chair in Shinto Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara

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