Conference: Music, Migration, Belonging/s in 21st-Century Europe

in cooperation with the Department of Folk Music Research and Ethnomusicology (IVE)



The question of belonging is important to everyone. Yet, this question becomes particularly significant to the experience of migration, with people leaving or being forced to leave familiar structures of belonging, finding themselves in new, alien contexts and environments. While music studies scholars have debated issues of identity in depth, the notion of belonging or belongings – as well as the counterpart non-belonging – has yet to be more widely theorized.

In music research, belonging is often considered synonymous with membership, citizenship, and identity. In other disciplines, such as gender studies, anthropology, sociology, and geography, belonging has been examined in greater detail. It is primarily applied in two different, yet related, ways: first, as an emotional attachment, about feeling at home’” (Yuval-Davis 2006, 197); and second, as a formal category in the politics of belonging (e.g. as a citizen of a state, a town; a member of an association), an externally ascribed identifier engendering constructions of inclusion and exclusion. Both dimensions of (non-)belonging exist simultaneously, they may intersect or be mutually affirmative, or they may, on account of the plurality of scales at which belonging is articulated (Antonsich 2010, 653), be contradictory and lead to conflict. Belonging may even be perceived as a continuous although not arbitrary process of transformation and change (Strasser 2009; cf. Bell 1999; Fortier 2000). This perspective points beyond the recurring “grand” categories of ethnicity, nationality, or gender, and instead highlights a multitude of parallel belonging/s, along with the complex and often contradictory feelings and politics surrounding chosen and non-chosen belonging/s.






Program booklet



Friday, November 24, 2023

9 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

9 a.m. - 6 p.m.



Fanny Hensel Hall, mdw, Anton-von-Webern-Platz 1, 1030 Wien

mdw – University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna

Examining (non-)belonging forces us to look at structural and emotional ties, whether family or age groups, musical genre networks, communities related to queerness or ethnicity, class-based groups, or notions of home” or place. Belonging/s makes visible the differences among people who have migrated from the same region, even when sharing the same ethnic/national background, and guides the perspective toward interdependences, negations, and contradictions of differentiating categories. In the context of music and migration research, a focus on belonging/s might offer more concise, more specific, and at the same time, more flexible analytical approaches for observing the heterogeneity of (musical) belonging or the performance of non-belonging in music – approaches that may diffuse or even negate ethnic/national ties.

The conference “Music, Migration, Belonging/s provides a discursive space to specifically engage with the connections and interdependencies of music, migration, and (non-)belonging/s, with a focus on 21st-century Europe. The concept of belonging is explored within the realm of music, as both a challenge and opportunity for music and migration studies. We aim to discuss how belonging as a theoretical perspective can help us grasp the dynamics, intersections, contradictions, and constants in the lives of migrated individuals/groups connected through music, deliberately opening the perspective beyond ethnic/national identities.


We aim to organise this event in accordance to the guidelines of the intern seal of approval "fairanstalten_mdw. weniger ist mehr" in order to contribute to resource conservation, climate protection, regional added value and raising awareness.

This is how you can support us in this endeavour:

  • Use public transportation, the bicycle or walk. The mdw is very centrally located and easy to reach with the U3, the S-Bahn or the tram line O. There are bicycle parking spaces and city bikes in front of the main building

  • Avoid rubbish in the best way possible and separate unavoidable rubbish on site according to the specifications of the waste management system

  • Use 100% recycled paper or at least non-chlorine bleached (TCF) paper for necessary printing

Thank you very much! If you would like to learn more about our university's environmental commitment, have a look at "green mdw"'s website:


The conference is organized within the research project “Women Musicians from Syria: Performance, Networks, Belonging/s after Migration”, funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF (V706-G29), and carried out at the Music and Minorities Research Center (MMRC) at the mdwUniversity of Music and Performing Arts Vienna. Additional funding is provided by the Department of Folk Music Research and Ethnomusicology (mdw) and the city of Vienna (Stadt Wien Kultur).


Organizational team:

Ass.-Prof. Dr. Anja Brunner

Tessa Balser-Schuhmann

María del Mar Ocaña Guzmán



(Tessa Balser-Schuhmann)