‘Swiftposium’: Australia to host academic conference on Taylor Swift

‘Swiftposium’: Australia to host academic conference on Taylor Swift

Event at University of Melbourne in February will explore singer’s influence on gender, mental health and urban landscapes

Australia is set to fulfil student Swifties’ wildest dreams when it hosts an international academic symposium in 2024 devoted to the global cultural and economic impact of Taylor Swift.

The three-day “Swiftposium”, hosted by the University of Melbourne from 11 to 13 February 2024, coincides with the singer’s Eras tour, which kicks off in Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on 16 February.

Organised by scholars from seven Australian and New Zealand universities, Swiftposium is billed as an “academic conference for scholars to engage in critical dialogue about Swift’s popularity and its profound implications for a range of issues including gender, fandom, popular culture, literature, the economy, the music industry, and more”.

The interdisciplinary conference will be held both online and in-person, including a public event in Melbourne’s Federation Square.

Taylor Swift performs during her Eras tour  in Inglewood, California last month

On Thursday organisers issued a call for academic papers, with suggested topics such as: “‘When my depression works the graveyard shift’: Mental health discourse and Taylor Swift”, ‘If I was a man, then I’d be The Man’: Taylor Swift, and gender and sexuality”, and “‘This city screams your name’: The impacts of international touring and large events, particularly Taylor Swift, on urban landscapes and the cultural identity of cities.”

Organisers will invite the singer to make a virtual appearance.

The conference’s co-organiser Dr Jennifer Beckett, a senior lecture in media and communications at the University of Melbourne, said academics from a range of disciplines from the Asia Pacific region were invited to submit papers – from urban planning to law to health.

“I think it’s very important to look at how celebrities or artists impact on our lives and the different facets of our life,” Beckett said.

“Taylor Swift has such an outsized impact on elements of everyday life. For example, she’s been credited with drawing attention back to public transport in a post-pandemic era. A lot of the cities she’s going to – the public transport planners have been speaking out about adding extra services.”

Swiftonomics is already a well-trodden field, with economists analysing the effect of her Eras tour on the singer’s net worth, as well as consumer spending, inflation and GDP.

“I can’t think of another artist, with perhaps the exception of Beyoncé, who has had quite the same economic impact,” Beckett said.Beckett, a xennial who grew up on a steady diet of goth and 90s grunge, said she came to Swift fandom relatively late, after being introduced to her music via her younger sister.

“Some of those songs have seen me through some really dark times,” she said. “The Reputation album I really needed to hear it when that came out. I remember screaming along to it at the top of my lungs.”

Beckett said the singer’s ability to build online community and parasocial relationships with fans was an area of growing academic interest. “The team behind [Swift] is a masterclass in PR and communications,” she said.

The idea for the Swiftposium gained traction in July, when University of Melbourne cultural studies lecturer Hannah McCann flippantly tweeted her idea. She knew she was in trouble when it enchanted acafans (scholars who identify as fans) from Australia and across the pond. “Everyone rallied behind it,” said Beckett.

Taylor Swift en concierto de su gira Eras, el 5 de mayo de 2023, en el Nissan Stadium en...

“There is immense value in looking at these types of culture icons when they have this level of influence.”

This is not the first time Swift has attracted academic interest. This year Belgium’s Ghent University introduced an elective titled Literature: Taylor’s Version, which uses Swift’s work as a springboard for exploring other writers.

In 2022, New York University’s Clive Davis Institute introduced a wide-ranging course on Swift, while University of Texas English professor Elizabeth Scala founded a course titled The Taylor Swift Songbook.

In November, Indiana University Bloomington will host a two-day conference for “Swifties and Swifty-adjacent thinkers”.

source: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2023/sep/22/taylor-swift-swiftposium-academic-conference-australia-university-of-melbourne

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