THIS PETITION IS NOW CLOSED
It has been sent off to the relevant Italian authorities for the third (3rd!) time with 573 signatures from 47 nations
|The Petition in English||La petizione in italiano||La petición en español|
|This petition is now closed (see below)|
|Why the Italian university system
excludes popular music studies
(the SSD problem)
|List of signatories
Elenco dei firmatari
Relación de firmas
|Articolo Quando i settori disciplinari strozzano la ricerca (di redazione ROARS, 2 luglio 2014)|
|Negative reactions from some music
academics inside the Italian system
|List of signatories by nation|
|Background and personal
|Final update 2015-06-14, 02:00 BST|
Many thanks to all 573 of you, from 47 nations, who signed the petition.To get an idea of who actually signed,, take a look at this list. It's encouraging to see the range of disciplines, occupations, ages, and nationalities represented. Some of the comments added at the end of the list are worth reading, too. The petition is now closed. It has been sent for the third and last time to the appropriate authorities in Rome.
Several individuals asked how the situation described in the petition can be so bad. I edited a short explanatory text in English about how the administrative structure of the Italian university system ‘works’ to exclude popular music studies (as well as semiotics, cultural studies, etc!). We’ve also received, unsurprisingly, some extraordinarily hostile (and infantile) comments from the musicological and ethnomusicological gatekeepers of power inside the Italian university system — see ‘Negative reactions from some music academics inside the Italian system’..
Some earlier negative reactions to the petition included disgracefully petty and vindictive comments. They even stooped to insulting Franco Fabbri personally, telling him to shut up, to quit right now and to stop ‘causing trouble’, including one sarcastic “Happy retirement, Fabbri!”. They also said that Goffredo Plastino and I, who put together the petition, were running a “Pro-Fabbri campaign”, just because we cited Franco’s situation as a particularly blatant example of hostility towards popular music studies in Italian universities. Of course, by reacting so churlishly, they provided evidence of how petty and virulent that hostility can be.
Hostility is exacerbated by an apparent indifference to, or ignorance of, the seriousness of the issues set out in the petition. In early June 2014 we sent the petition, signed by 100 individuals, to the Italian ministry of education, asking for a reply. When, in October 2014, we had still received no response, we re-sent the petition, this time with 440 signatures and a request for at least an acknowledgement of receipt. It is now June 2015, and we have yet to receive any response of any kind. That’s why, as a final act of parliamentary democracy on this issue, we have now sent the petition for a third and final time, with 573 signatures, to the Italian authorities. If no satisfactory response is received this time, we will have to radically change tactics.
Thanks for taking the time to read this.
As scholars devoted to studying the role and functions of music in contemporary society, we see ourselves obliged to express grave concern about the state of popular music studies in Italian universities.
We recognise the important contributions made over the past thirty years by Italian colleagues to our field of studies but we also recognise — with bewilderment — the indifference and even open hostility of Italian academic institutions towards an area of study that is widely accepted elsewhere the world.
The refusal to accept, or even to just mention, popular music as a legitimate area of study has led to the exclusion of a whole generation of scholars from Italian universities. Moreover, the few that have been allowed to teach in universities (sometimes after turning down offers of employment abroad in order to do so) are relegated to lowly positions shamefully incompatible with their widely recognised competence and international reputation. It’s in this way that a whole field of studies, of strategic importance to the understanding of key aspects in Italian society and media, has been marginalised. There has been effective denial of the essential contribution that popular music studies can make to the modernisation of university courses and to the development of programmes of education appropriate to today’s culture and economy.
One case in need of particular attention is that of Franco Fabbri, one of the international pioneers of popular music studies. Although officially declared "Professor", Fabbri now faces the risk of that new status never being recognised, of having to retire on a teaching assistant’s pension, and being blocked from continuing with his teaching and research work. Fabbri’s paradoxical situation is at the same time scandalous and indicative of the subject area’s exclusion from the academy. Here we need to underline that many other highly competent colleagues have not even had the satisfaction of acquiring any official academic status due to evaluation criteria based on quite different musicological specialisations.
University policies that marginalise innovative studies and that humiliate scholars of established international repute are, in our opinion, tantamout to suicide for Italy’s public universities and for Italian society. We therefore ask the relevant authorities to urgently reconsider the effects of the conservative and, frankly, incomprehensible decisions that have been taken in this matter.
Ci sono noti gli importanti contributi che i colleghi italiani hanno dato a questo campo di studi da trent’anni a questa parte, ma ci è nota anche —e ci stupisce— l’indifferenza, a volte l’aperta ostilità, delle istituzioni accademiche nei riguardi di un settore che altrove nel mondo è ampiamente riconosciuto.
Il rifiuto di accogliere, addirittura anche solo di nominare la popular music come disciplina a sé stante ha determinato l’esclusione di un’intera generazione di studiosi dall’università italiana. Anche quelli che, infine, sono stati accolti nelle università come docenti (a volte dopo aver rinunciato a incarichi all’estero), sono confinati in ruoli inadeguati alle loro capacità e al loro prestigio scientifico. Un intero campo di studi, di importanza strategica per comprendere settori chiave della società e del sistema dei media italiani, è stato quindi marginalizzato: è stato così negato il contributo essenziale che gli studi di popular music possono offrire alla modernizzazione dell’università e pertanto alla realizzazione di programmi didattici adeguati alla realtà della cultura e dell’economia odierne.
Un caso esemplare che desideriamo mettere in evidenza è quello di Franco Fabbri, uno dei pionieri di questi studi a livello internazionale. Pur avendo ottenuto l’abilitazione a Professore Ordinario, Fabbri rischia adesso di non poter vedere riconosciuto il suo nuovo ruolo e di essere costretto a andare in pensione da ricercatore: gli verrebbe pertanto negata la possibilità di proseguire le attività di didattica e di ricerca. La vicenda paradossale che Fabbri sta vivendo è scandalosa e insieme simbolica di un più ampio isolamento accademico. Desideriamo inoltre sottolineare con forza che molti altri stimati colleghi non hanno avuto nemmeno la soddisfazione di ottenere l’abilitazione, a causa di un sistema valutativo misurato su altre specializzazioni disciplinari.
Riteniamo che una politica che emargini gli studi più avanzati e che mortifichi gli studiosi di consolidato valore internazionale sia semplicemente suicida, per l’università pubblica e per la società italiane. Ci auguriamo quindi che le autorità competenti provvedano rapidamente a riconsiderare gli effetti di scelte incomprensibili e conservatrici.
Los estudios sobre música
popular en las universidades italianas:
Personal reflections on the petition
Philip Tagg (2014-05-20, upd. 2014-06-21, 2014-10-02, 2015-03-21)
Franco Fabbri is one of IASPM's founding members. I've known him since the first conference in Amsterdam (1981). He's one of those rare IASPM-ites who bridges the gaps between professional musicianship, intellectual rigour, socio-political acuity and democratic humanism.
Since leaving the computing firm he co-founded, Franco has worked mainly on loose hours and short-term contracts at the University of Turin. He even turned down secure and well-paid jobs abroad so that he could devote himself to establishing popular music studies in at least one Italian university. The popularity of his teaching and supervision has clearly irked conservative and mediocre colleagues who see interest in their own specialisms dwindle from year to year.
Unable to secure any advancement in the Italian university system (no reasonable contract, no job security, etc.), we hoped that helping him acquire a doctorate here at the University of Huddersfield might persuade his "powers that be" to recognise the scholarly value of the man. Around the same time he was able to apply for and, later, to be declared competent as, "Professore" (abilitazione).
Now, aged 65, Franco has been told that his status as professor is not be recognised, that he has to retire with no more than the state pension, and that he won't be allowed to continue teaching or doing research at his university.
As described in the petition, Franco's shameful treatment is not just a personal issue. It appears to be part of a campaign to rid Italian universities of serious popular music studies. That is unacceptable and the main reason behind the petition.
Goffredo Plastino, current chair of IASPM, wrote the original Italian petition which I translated into English. We attached it to personal emails that we sent to around 100 individuals, most of whom signed without hesitation. Those that hesitated never signed and only one of those had the decency to explain why. The petition was clearly something to be ignored, something that would go away if it were never talked about. Wrong! We collected 573 signatures from 47 different nations.
The problem is partly a specifically Italian one (see this text). The majority of those in Italian positions of power in the world of music studies are rarely, if ever, seen at international conferences. Those I’ve met of that ilk in Italy have, frankly, often been paragons of mediocrity. They appoint ethnomusicologists and jazz experts who know little or nothing about popular music to deal with the uncomfortable reality of our subject area and they consistently obstruct real scholars in our field, both young and old, from developing it. They are the kings and queens of their own little duckpond and don't seem to care if the likes of Frith, Hennion, Middleton, Moore, Nattiez, etc. think they're acting wrongly because we have no say over their duckpond. Their pettiness ruins the lives of not only respected Italian brothers and sisters banished from the pond but also deprives Italian students of real knowledge about the real world of the music of most people in our own times. I think it's scandalous.
(On a personal note, I've heard from doctoral students of musicology in Italy that I am not to be trusted as a scholar because I allegedly ‘know nothing about harmony’. That sort of petty calumny is pathetic, but it’s also comical, given that I attained a B.A. at Cambridge in the 1960s, and that I was trained as a church organist with euroclassical tertial tonality ingrained in my audiomuscular memory! However, it’s no joke for young Italians who can’t use alternative views of musical reality in their research without jeopardising their academic career. That, I think is a disgrace.)
Still, the problem isn't just Italian, even if it's particularly acute there. I've heard people in Spain complain that they won't get a university job if they don't join Opus Dei. And I don't know how many times I've seen, in the UK and elsewhere, self-proclaimed popular music experts (quacks) interviewed in the media, how many unqualified individuals have been given teaching jobs in popular music, because ill-informed decision-makers have no idea about (or are scared of) the seriousness of popular music studies. They seem to think it's something you can toss off with your left hand (vulgar connotation intended for ignorance that is itself vulgar).
P.S. Despite the quacks in university duckponds, I have nothing whatsoever against Anatidae.