Archive | U2 Studies Alerts

Announcing U2Con 2020 | Heartland: U2’s Looking for American Soul

Heartland: U2’s Looking For American Soul
An International Virtual U2 Conference For Scholars And Fans
October 18 – 24, 2020

U2 loves, lives in and leverages America, all while feeling free to critique, correct and create America. We invite fans, students and scholars to a week of online conversations and critical inquiry into U2’s complicated history of looking for American soul. We’ll be planning multiple formats for attendees to engage in presentations, connect with each other and enjoy the conference community at different times throughout the week.

For more information on how you can be involved, please see our conference:

We’ll have more updates soon about main speakers and registration. We hope you’ll join us as we examine U2’s place, space and sound in the American experiment.

Conference Coordinators:

From The “Anxious Bench” to the Cereal Aisle: Chad E. Seales On How Bono, Revivalists and Neoliberal Capitalists Are One But Not The Same

I enjoyed listening to Chad E. Seales, author of Religion Around Bono: Evangelical Enchantment and Neoliberal Capitalism (Penn State University Press, 2019), in two recent interviews on the ways Bono is in the tradition of both religious revival preachers, such as early American Presbyterian minister Charles Grandison Finney, and neoliberal capitalists, such as economist Jeffrey Sachs, former U.S. President Barack Obama and current U.S. President Donald Trump.

Seems like an odd cohort to belong to, doesn’t it? And it sounds like maybe Seales has joined the tradition of treating Bono like an easy target for cheap shots. But not so fast. I appreciate Seales’ analysis and constructive criticism and I think he wants to be a part of a conversation worth having. In both interviews, Seales offers helpful context, especially in the second, longer interview, and I thought he fairly credited Bono with intending to do good things in his position of wealth and influence.

Seals describes himself as a U2 fan who grew up in the American Evangelical Christian tradition. He is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Texas at Austin and also the author of The Secular Spectacle: Performing Religion in a Southern Town (Oxford University Press, 2013). His academic work here is, I think, a valuable addition to both U2 studies and studies of U2 fans. I wouldn’t mind talking with Seales myself, and while I might not reach all of the same conclusions he does, I’ve already learned from his explanation of how the processes work in a system channeling celebrity influence, religious appeals and capitalist principles.

I recommend listing to both interviews in full. One was with Western Michigan’s WGVU host Shelly Irwin (May 18, 2020, 8:10) and the other was with KPFK Pacifica’s Rising Up With Sonali” hosted by Sonali Kolhatkar (April 21, 2020, 19:18).

I pulled these quotes from the interviews just because they were the more interesting ones to me.

Seales explains to WGVU’s Shelly Irwin that he sees Bono as similar to early 1800’s American revivalist Charles Finney in his adaptation of Finney’s “anxious bench” technique in U2 concerts. He speaks to this point from the 5:00 – 6:40 mark, during which he says:

[Bono] comes from an Evangelical revival tradition. He takes the message of Evangelicalism into the world through secular means, and this is part of the tradition going back to the Second Great Awakening in American revival history. … And Bono does similar things in his concerts, not in a way to convert you to save your soul but to convert you to his cause, which are moral and social causes in Africa.

During the course of his conversation on “Rising Up With Sonali,” in which host Kolhatkar takes a more critical tone toward Bono than Irwin did, Seales said:

There’s a way in which Bono packages this evangelical spirituality such that it’s both non-offensive in the sense that it’s not being pushed on anybody, in the sense of someone not wanting to hear it, and it’s also sort of an open secret. Bono speaks of it as drawing fish in the sand. The messages are there for those who can see them, hear them, and want to find them, and it’s also kind of not there at all for fans who just wouldn’t catch onto the underlying religious themes. (starting at 3:36)

Bono is an icon of the ability of capitalism to absorb critique and restructure itself in such a way that it continues to maintain its both external status as intervening from the outside in and the ways in which multinational corporations are not in any way forced to revise their policies. (starting at 7:14)

Bono, like Oprah, sees no contradiction in making money, lots of money, but it’s a ‘good’ … if it’s in the service of a higher calling, a transcendent purpose. And in this case Bono’s transcendent purpose [are] the causes he champions in Africa. (starting at 13:58)

There’s a kind of scarcity that plays into these Evangelical models of [entrepreneurship] in that you have to earn it in the sense of economically, in the same way that you’re responsible for your own salvation as an Evangelical. (starting at 15:03)

Bono’s version of evangelicalism is closer to Barack Obama’s, or it’s closer to the Democratic Party’s in the United States, so one of the ironies is liberal progressives who are huge fans of U2 … are also sharing, in economic terms, the evangelicalism that undergirds the Religious Right. (starting at 16:11)

If you look and actually compare the economic practices of Trump versus Bono, they’re quite similar … but on the surface in terms of their progressive politics they are totally different brands. So one of the things to keep in mind in terms of religion is that there’s a kind of religious convergence underneath what appears to be separate economic brands. (starting at 16:33)

And lastly, after making a helpful analogy to how an aisle of cereal at the grocery looks like it has a plurality of difference even though all of the boxes contain mostly the same ingredients, Seales says:

The underlying ingredient that both Bono shares with Trump that shares with former President Obama is this notion of free markets. … The key signals of neoliberal policies are the privatization of public goods and services and a deregulation on a global sense of free markets.” (starting at 16:10)

U2 Studies Alert | New Journal Article: “‘A Table in the Presence of My Enemies’: ‘Songs of Descent’ from Psalm 23 to U2’s Pop.”

Congratulations to Richard S. Briggs, who contacted the U2 Studies Network to let us know a paper he first presented at the 2018 U2 Conference in Belfast was published in the current issue of Glass, the journal of the Christian Literary Studies Group at Oxford University.

His article, “‘A Table in the Presence of My Enemies’: ‘Songs of Descent’ from Psalm 23 to U2’s Pop,” is available at the moment only to subscribers of Glass. However, when the next issue of Glass is published, selected articles from previous issues become available for free as a PDF here. We hope Briggs’ article will be available later this year for free, and if it is we’ll let you know.

The abstract for Briggs’ article is:

U2’s 1997 Pop album has been compared to aspects of the book of Psalms, with its inclusion of key moments of lament and complaint in the presence of God. It can be read as a series of ‘poems’ that explore the world ‘in the presence of (my) enemies’, as Psalm 23 puts it. One question raised by this reading is: who are Pop’s enemies? I suggest that the album lacks focus on this issue, and blurs the line between focusing on God’s enemies (classically: sin, death and the devil, as per the final song ‘Wake Up Dead Man’), and focusing on the various ways in which evil is manifest in human life and relationships instead. The result is an album that represents a descent into the problems of the world with no clear path marked out for a corresponding ascent.

The U2 Studies Bibliography has been updated with this entry:

Briggs, Richard S. “‘A Table in the Presence of My Enemies’: ‘Songs of Descent’ from Psalm 23 to U2’s Pop.” Glass 32 (2020), 50-55.

The Rev. Dr. Richard Briggs is Lecturer in Old Testament, Director of Biblical Studies, Cranmer Hall, St. John’s College, Durham University, Durham, England.

BOOK REVIEW | The Rosary and the Microphone: Religious Impulse in U2’s Mediated Brand

Image result for the rosary and the microphone

A Love Letter With Lapses and Limits

Review by Ian Greig

The Rosary and the Microphone: Religious Impulse in U2’s Mediated Brand
Equinox Studies in Popular Music
Nicholas P. Greco
Equinox Publishers, 2019
$100 hardback | $32 paperback and eBook

“ . . . (This) is a love letter to U2. It should be clear that I am a fan-scholar and so I am biased to look at the band positively.” So writes Nicholas Greco in his Preface, whilst still asserting a few pages later in his Introduction that, “U2 are not a rock band. U2 are a corporation. U2 are an institution that makes music and goes on tour . . . Music for U2 is not an afterthought, but it is also not an end” (2).

Interesting opening to a love letter.

The book’s title, The Rosary and the Microphone, refers to Bono’s final stage moments on the 2005 Vertigo Tour in Chicago as he hung his rosary from the mic stand and left the stage while the crowd continues singing “40.” Greco uses this image as a metaphor to examine the crossover between U2 the performing band and U2 the actors of religious faith and activism.

Greco divides U2’s career into four parts roughly akin to each decade of the bands’ existence. He covers a lot of ground in seven well-researched and referenced chapters. There are definitely places where the reader may wish that he would explore and develop an idea with more depth, but there are limitations of space for any book.

The first chapter is a potted history of U2 that ends with a summation of the reviews of Rattle and Hum, relying, for example, on Jon Pareles of the New York Times. Only in the final paragraph of this chapter does Greco establish his own analysis, when he examines the “One Tree Hill” clip in the film in depth. The book is much stronger in moments like this, when Greco directly examines the core source material—that is, the work created by U2—rather than relying on a critic’s opinion of what U2 did or did not achieve.

Greco defines his approach as Barthesian, as he conducts his own semiotic study of U2’s “signs.” (Greco states that the book is also a love letter to Roland Barthes.) He aims to focus on the band (or “brand’s”) performances primarily through the study of films released by the band. This can be a reductive approach given the limitations of film’s two dimensions (it is worth noting he does not include U2-3D in his analysis), but Greco’s decision does allow the reader to directly investigate his primary source material.

The use of Barthes is intriguing, as his ideas are most widely known from his essay “The Death of the Author” and his collection of essays Mythologies. Using Barthes to analyze popular culture has merit and even reflects Barthes early writing where he analyzed professional wrestling as “culture.” However, Greco’s focus is mostly on applying the thinking of the latter-day Barthes, particularly in Mourning Diary, and, a little more oddly, on what is known of Barthes personal life and his relationship with his mother.

Greco claims there are links between U2 and Barthes. At times the links between the two can be tenuous, such as when Greco writes, “Barthes’ project is represented in the . . .  aphorism ‘One writes in order to be loved.’ U2 seemingly respond to the French theorist with ‘Do you feel loved?’ . . . As if the band are in conversation with him.” Granted that is only in the book’s Introduction, but it seems a long way to travel to establish the link and it is unclear whether this imaginary Venn diagram achieves anything of note.

While there is nothing particularly wrong with focusing on Barthes’ writings from later in his life, Greco tries to draw links between Barthes’ actual life and the life of Bono, which is a bit more tenuous and lacks the intellectual rigor he displays elsewhere in his study. The line between Bono and U2, assuming there is one, is problematic for many. Is U2 Bono? Does Bono speak for all in the band? Is this at least true in performance, where Bono’s words seem rehearsed (maybe through repetition in performance) if not scripted? In this book, the dividing line, if it exists, is blurred and Greco seems to rely on what Bono has said the band are doing or what they intend to do, rather than just analyzing and responding to the “brand.”

Greco also tries to drill down into “Bono’s persona,” noting that apparently even Bono’s wife Ali calls him Bono. He contrasts this with what we know of Paul Hewson. This tension was addressed in part by U2 in their 2018 “Experience” concerts in Europe, when Bono delivered a scripted speech in the second part of the concert to mock the way he and the band were put on heroic pedestals in comparison to the people he said were real heroes: “firefighters, nurses, teachers.” Bono would then tell a story of returning to Cedarwood Road and being confronted by a neighbor who called him “Paul.” His response: “Paul! Paul! Who is Paul? I am fucking Bono! This is the Edge!” Bono’s decrying of the band’s status as heroes while still ironically embracing it set up the song “Even Better Than The Real Thing.” It was moment of humility quickly overpowered by the band. It worked, however, as a nod and a wink to the audience. It also recalled Bono’s reflections on the 1987 Joshua Tree tour, in which he acknowledged he had created a “persona to protect [himself] and then [was not] able to live up to the persona.”

As a further observation on Greco’s choice to employ Barthes’ theories, when he uses reviews or interviews with the band and Bono, rather than what is captured in the “primary texts” of U2’s films, it seems to undermine his Barthesian approach. By relying also on comments made directly by the band in “secondary texts” such as interviews, Greco accepts the power of the words of “the author” (whether Bono or U2 themselves) for shaping his response to U2’s work.

Defining U2’s “brand” can be problematic. The assumption would be that a book on U2 would focus on the work directly created by the band, but Greco—without explicitly stating it—considers work not made by the band but which has a connection to the band. He devotes an entire chapter to analyzing the Anton Corbijn film Linear, which accompanied No Line On The Horizon. Though the film occasionally features the band and uses an idea of Bono’s, it is essentially the work of Corbijn. Perhaps it is here that the “Death of the Author” theory is most faithfully applied when Greco responds to the work itself. His analysis of the film is thorough and insightful, and he highlights Barthesian concepts he sees in the film.

When Greco directly address the work of the band he produces some insightful analysis and the strongest elements of the book. At one point he investigates the use of the cityscape in U2 through the lens of an early 20th-century music critic, Paul Rosenfeld, and the theories of Fredric Jameson. At another he uses the work of Paul Virilio and the concept of “dromocracy.” Similarly, he offers some analysis of the short films accompanying “Song for Someone” and “You’re The Best Thing About Me.” In both cases, he explores the “religious impulse” in these “mediated brands.” He links Woody Harrelson’s performance in the film for “Songs For Someone” to the concepts of the stops in the Catholic Stations of the Cross. There is limited space in any book, but it would have been interesting to see his analysis of the profound and moving “Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way” film, which was used during performances in the European legs of the Experience tour.

The book’s subtitle is “The Religious Impulse in U2’s Mediated Brand.” This reader felt as though the religious impulse wasn’t consistently explored in the depth the subtitle promised. It felt as though the loaded connotations of “impulse” were largely set aside. Greco links his own Christian faith to his love of U2, but only occasionally seems to dig deeper in exploring the “religious impulse.” He defines Evangelicalism rather narrowly and whilst correctly describing U2’s initial relationship with that aspect of Christianity, he omits discussing the evangelicals who sit on the left of the political spectrum, such as Jim Wallis in the U.S. and the late John Smith in Australia. Bono has a connection with both men and wrote admiring statements for the covers of books written by both men. In 2019, a eulogy from Bono was read at John Smith’s funeral.

Greco also discusses U2’s relationship with nationalism and their “Irishness.” He examines the band’s embrace of America, particularly its use of the U.S. flag in concerts. This opens up other avenues of inquiry in terms of their appropriation of national symbols. The question of embracing national signs arose on the recent Australian Joshua Tree tour where U2 chose to close their concert by displaying the somewhat problematic Australian flag toward the end of “One.”

The final chapter examines Songs of Innocence as “Barthes’ Ideal Novel.” It’s disappointing to see Greco claim the controversy over how U2 released the album in 2014 as a basis for calling it “anathema to Barthes’ notion of a novel being free from power.” This seems a glib response rather than a critique of the album itself. Greco then focuses on the song “Iris” rather than considering the entire album, which allows him to link to Barthes own relationship with his mother. It’s surprising, given the title of the book, that Greco does not explore the religious implications inherent in the title of the album with its echo of William Blake’s volume of poetry. It is unfortunate that he didn’t consider the “religious impulse” apparent across the whole album.

In his Conclusion, Greco offers a few paragraphs of others’ reviews of Songs of Experience but does not make an analysis of his own. Most of the Conclusion discusses a “cosmopolitan Christianity” and U2. When it is clearly focused on the band and their work it is a strength, but when Greco dives into an exploration of “cosmopolitanism” that links to the band but does not have U2 at the center, it is a frustration.

As most studies will generate a few minor quibbles of a more personal type for readers, this reviewer shares just two here. Greco said U2 fans have to pay more for standing room premium tickets at concerts, but except in the relatively small Red Zones, this has never been true on the tours to Australia. Indeed, it should be noted that relative to other concerts, U2 have kept their general admission prices low. By lining up early, this reviewer has always been able to be in a prime position for the show. A second reaction is Greco references Bruce Cockburn’s song “Fascist Architecture” and, to this reader’s understanding, misrepresents what Cockburn is writing about. It’s a minor point, but when two artists who are much admired by many fans—and who share many of the same fans—are brought together in discussion, it detracts from Greco’s point when a fan thinks he’s made an interpretive error.

The Rosary and the Microphone is at turns intelligent and stimulating, offering insight into what, for this reviewer, is a beloved band. There are apparent lapses where the focus veers away from expectations set by the title, though much of the book is an engaging, well-synthesized academic study that was overall enjoyable to read.

Ian Greig holds a B.A. Dip Ed. and an M.A. (Performance Studies) from the University of Sydney. He teaches high school drama and English literature classes and lives in rural NSW, Australia.

U2 Studies Alert | Two CFPs With Room to Study U2 @ 2020 Popular Culture Conferences in Canada and Europe

Call for Papers: Pop and Politics: State of the Field / State of the World

Annual Conference of the Popular Culture Association of Canada
Concordia University
Montreal, QC
May 7-9, 2020

After a one-year hiatus, the annual conference of the Popular Culture Association of Canada is back and looking forward—as well as up, left, right, down, and back. For our 9th annual conference, which will take place at Concordia University in Montreal, QC from May 7th-9th, 2020, we’re reflecting on the state of our field by inviting discussion on the relationship between popular culture and politics, broadly conceived.

Precisely because it’s popular, popular culture is often derided as politically conservative; for the same reason, it’s also critiqued as socially liberal. These disagreements are not, of course, surprising; popularity necessitates the inclusion and complex negotiation of myriad political beliefs, themes, and contexts. The rise of populist political movements around the world—and the reinvigoration of activism and progressive politics in response to these movements—has made the relationship between pop and politics especially obvious; now, more than ever, the state of popular culture is inseparable from the state of the world.

Our conference is global, interdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary; we welcome any and all perspectives on popular texts, industries, and reading practices. In addition, presentations can be historical or contemporary; we encourage reflections on the past that has shaped our present and the present that shapes our future.

Possible topics may include:

  • The depiction of political movements and controversies within popular texts (film, television, literature, fashion, comics, architecture, social media, sports, games, music, advertising, etc.)  
  • Intersections of popular culture and populism
  • The politics of fandom
  • Campaigns for diversity and the backlashes against them
  • The effects of political movements and policy on media industries
  • The politics of teaching and studying popular culture

Proposals for 15 to 20-minute papers should be submitted by January 15th, 2020. Pre-constituted panels and roundtables are welcome; these should be submitted as a single package. Proposals should be a maximum of 300 words and must include a 50-word biography of the presenter(s). Panels should include individual proposals for each paper; roundtables only require a single proposal, in addition to biographies of the presenters. Proposals, and any questions about the conference, should be sent to:

All presenters will need to become members of the association in order to be featured in the program. Conference registration fees will automatically include 2020 membership. Each presenter may only present a single paper, but can participate in a roundtable in addition to presenting a paper.

Membership information and the conference program will be available on our website.

Call for Papers: EUPOP 2020

Jagiellonian University
Kraków, Poland
July 22nd – 24th, 2020
Deadline: 29th February, 2019

Individual paper and panel contributions are welcomed for the ninth annual international conference of the European Popular Culture Association (EPCA), to be held at Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland, July 22nd – 24th, 2020.

EUPOP 2020 will explore European popular culture in all its various forms. This includes, but is by no means limited to, the following topics: Climate Change in Popular Culture, European Film (past and present), Television, Music, Costume and Performance, Celebrity, The Body, Fashion, New Media, Popular Literature and Graphic Novels, Queer Studies, Sport, Curation, and Digital Culture. We also welcome abstracts which reflect the various ways of how the idea of relationship between Europe and popular culture could be formed and how the current tur-moil in European identity (e.g. the legacy of totalitarianism and fascism), union, its borders and divisions are portrayed in popular cultural themes and contents.

Papers and complete panels for all strands will be subject to peer review. Proposals for individ-ual presentations must not exceed 20 minutes in length, and those for panels limited to 90 minutes. In the latter case, please provide a short description of the panel along with individual abstracts. Poster presentations and video projections are also warmly welcomed.

Proposals comprising a 300-word abstract, your full name, affiliation, and contact details (as a Word-file attachment, not a PDF) should be submitted to Kari Kallioniemi ( by 29.02.2020. Receipt of proposals will be acknowledged via e-mail, and the decision of acceptance will be notified within two weeks of submission.

The conference draft program will be announced in May 2020, along with the conference regis-tration and accommodation details. The likely conference fee will be 150 euros (student), and 200 euros (other). The fee includes coffees, lunches, evening reception & dinner, and EPCA Membership (includes subscription to the European Journal of Popular Culture, Intellect Press).

More information at EUPOP 2020

U2 Aca-Fans, Geeks and Nerds at The World of Bob Dylan and Future U2 Conferences

Are you an aca-fan? Academics who are also fans of the subject they study are aca-fans (sometimes written as acafan). The term has been around for a while as have fan cultures and fandom studies.

There are plenty of online places to read more about aca-fans and what they do, from definition sites like this one, to a first-person “Confession of an Aca-Fan” from Henry Jenkins, who is said to have coined the term, to this recent essay on David Bowie fandom, which was published in The Fandom of David Bowie.

Toija Cinque, a co-author of The Fandom of David Bowie, wrote in another article titled Celebrity conferences as confessional spaces: the aca-fan memory traces of David Bowie’s stardom that:

The exchange of ideas between fans about stars and celebrities frequently takes place in informal circumstances, sometime face-to-face or in online forums and increasingly via social media such as Facebook. An increasingly important aspect of stardom and celebrity in contemporary societies finds now that there are important ‘new’ and professional spaces for commentary, discussion and thinking about star performers and the various affects of fandom itself. Such is the aca-fan conference.

If you’ve been to one of our U2 Conferences, or having been following along in the field of U2 Studies, you know exactly what an aca-fan is. You are, most likely, a U2 aca-fan yourself.

Kevin Dettmar, professor of English at Pomona College, attended the 2009 U2 Conference and presented his paper “Nothing Succeeds Like Failure: U2 and the Politics of Irony,” which he later contributed to Exploring U2: Is This Rock ‘n’ Roll? (Rowman and Littlefield, 2011).

In July, Dettmar wrote for The Chronicle of Higher Education about attending The World of Bob Dylan Symposium, a four-day conference on Bob Dylan at The University of Tulsa’s Institute for Bob Dylan Studies. Organizers expected about 200 attendees; they closed registration at 500.

“All Along the Ivory Tower: Amateur geeks and scholarly nerds come together to discuss Bob Dylan and his music,” shares Dettmar’s observations, personal experience and questions about the co-mingling of scholars and fans around a common subject. He shared the whole article with me and you can read it here.

I pulled some of Dettmar’s musings which I found to be most relevant to what I’ve noticed at U2 Conferences. Do his reactions strike a chord with you too? What’s been your aca-fan experience? What have the U2 Conferences done for you, and what would you like to see at the next U2 Conferences? Please leave your comments below.

Dettmar writes:

I had participated in a Dylan conference once before, one fully “scholarly” in design and tenor; the program and the talks were brilliant. But the Tulsa gathering was something different — something special. That’s reflected by the fact that it can with justice be described as a “gathering.” In part, it was a meeting of different “tribes”; in stark opposition to the traditional academic conference, the organizers had invited journalists, artists, and fans, as well as popular-music scholars. For many, the conference served as a kind of IRL meetup for folks who had known one another only from Dylan fan sites, message boards, and Facebook groups.

Most uncharitably, to both parties, the division might be described as “geeks” versus “nerds”; more conventionally, I suppose, the participants could tentatively be grouped into “fans” and “scholars.” The distinction is somewhat dubious, of course, but there’s something to it. One of the differences between fan and scholar involves the question of intentionality. Fans aspire to have the mind of Bob; scholars, in theory at least, seek rather to assess the achievement of the work, independent from what Dylan thought or said about it, to figure out not what Dylan meant, but what a given song, or album, or performance does. Scholars don’t care (or try not to care) about what Dylan thought he was doing, or was trying to do; we tend to hold to a more mysterious, even mystical, understanding of art, believing that the work always exceeds (and often contradicts) the explicit intentions of its maker. … Whereas fans, by and large, hold to a more mystical understanding of Dylan himself. For the fans, the credibility of an argument hinges on whether it jibes with their sense of what Bob was trying to do.

Another distinction that struck me that weekend is that fans’ way of seeing, analyzing, and questioning such topics is more detectivelike, more based in fact-finding, whereas scholars cherish the study of ideas. One practical consequence was that we scholars were quickly labeled the pundits, the ideas guys (and more often than not, guys took up the most space).

A final, but crucial, distinction between scholarly and fan interpretation concerns the question of context. Both scholars and fans seemed to eschew reading Dylan’s work in some orthodox New Critical fashion — they rejected the notion that Dylan’s songs alone were the sacred, self-contained source of interpretable meaning — but they had rather different reasons for doing so. The fans, too, spent a lot of time close reading Dylan’s texts, pressuring them to surrender their meanings, while also vigilantly attending to the contexts that framed their readings and proved their validity. For them, though, the principal context was what they conceived to be Dylan’s own intentions: Getting into the texts was a proxy for getting into Bob’s head.

A rich spirit of intellectual generosity reigned among the Dylan fans; I think all of the scholars were impressed with how unstinting they were with their considerable knowledge. We were also more than a little freaked out by them, truth be told, and even a little envious. It’s no secret that academics are routinely beset with professional anxieties, jealousies, and endless self-doubts. The fans, on the other hand, seemed completely untouched by things like “impostor syndrome.” But then again, they’re not impostors: What they know, they really know.

I chaired a session composed of one scholar and one fan — the latter, I’d guess, a late 20-something who said I should introduce him as an “independent basement scholar.” His talk on the world of Dylan fanzines was remarkable — as was the archive of that ephemera he has assembled, which he makes freely available via PDF to anyone who asks. The spirit of trading Dylan and Grateful Dead bootlegs is alive and well and living on the internet. … And the Dylan fans weren’t just generous with one another — they were generous with “us,” the scholars.

As should be clear by now — you will have figured it out far more quickly than I did — we scholars could learn a lot from the fans. This is not to suggest that conferences should be transformed into concerts (though I do think Dr. Freud would have something to say about the way I kept slipping up and calling it a Dylan concert rather than conference). But if we scholars think that fans’ analyses are lacking in rigor, our work would surely benefit from a bit of their enthusiasm, even joy.

U2 Studies Alert |New Conference CFPs on Celebrity Culture & Listening to Popular Music / Five Papers Newly Added to the U2 Studies Bibliography

U2 Studies Alerts share opportunities for research, writing, learning, and participation in projects and events related to U2 and topics associated with U2 that might be of interest to fans, students and scholars. Alerts are collected from a variety of sources and archived and distributed by Search this site for “U2 Studies Alert” to find more.

All needed details for each alert should be in the body text, but
contact if you need more information or have an item to share for a future alert.

Regarding conference Call for Papers: Consider submitting proposals to these conferences on a topic that interests you about U2’s music, work, influence or fandom culture which would also fit within the framework of these conference topics.



Transformations in Celebrity Culture: The Fifth International Celebrity Studies Conference

June 18 – 20, 2020
University of Winchester, UK
Sponsored by the Culture-Media-Text Research Centre, Faculty of Arts, University of Winchester.

Deadline for proposals is October 1, 2019. Full CFP here.

Keynote speakers (confirmed):
●       Dr. Nandana Bose, FLAME University, India
●       Dr. Anthea Taylor, University of Sydney, Australia
●       Prof. Brenda R. Weber, Indiana University Bloomington, USA
●       Dr. Milly Williamson, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK

More details about the conference here.


Home - Universität Innsbruck

Listening to (Mainstream) Popular Music in 2020: Sounds and Practices
May 21-22, 2020 
Department of Music, University of Innsbruck, Austria

Deadline for proposals: October 25, 2019. More conference details and a full CFP here.

These four new papers are now listed along with 100+ more items on the U2 Studies Bibliography.

1. Côté, Thierry. “Popular Musicians and Their Songs as Threats to National Security: A World Perspective.” The Journal of Popular Culture 44.4 (2011): 732-754. Free to download with a free account.

2. Galbraith, Deane. “Meeting God in the Sound: The Seductive Dimension of U2’s Future Hymns.” Chapter in: The Counter-Narratives of Radical Theology and Rock’n’Roll: Songs of Fear and Trembling. Ed. Mike Grimshaw. Radical Theologies. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. 119-135. Free to download with a free account.

3. Kearney, David. “‘I Can’t Believe the News Today’: Music and the Politics of Change.” Chimera 24 (2009): 122–140. Available online here.

4. Van den Berg, Jan Albert. “The Gospel According to Bono and U2? Worship in the New Millennium.” Chapter in: A Faithful Witness. Essays in Honour of Malan Nel. Edited by H. Pieterse and C. Thesnaar. Wellington: Bible Media, 2009. 197-208. Free to download with a free account.

5. Welch, Marshall J. “We Get To Carry Each Other: Using the Musical Activism of U2 As A Framework for an Engaged Spirituality & Community Engagement Course.” Engaging Pedagogies in Catholic Higher Education 1.1 (2015): 1-10. Free to download with a free account.

Furthering the field of U2 Studies with Myth, Fan Culture, and the Popular Appeal of Liminality in the Music of U2

Looking for some back to school U2 studies reading? Here’s a newish book by Brian Johnston and Susan Mackey-kallis. More info at the book’s site and here’s a back-to-school sale flyer for a 30% discount on orders through Nov. 11, 2019.

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Brian Johnston is visiting assistant professor in the Department of Media, Journalism and Film at Miami University.

Susan Mackey-Kallis is associate professor in the Department of Communication at Villanova University.

U2 Studies Alert |”U2 and Jewish Thought” available / Paperback edition of U2 and the Religious Impulse / CFP: Researching Live Music: Gigs, Tours, Concerts and Festivals

U2 Studies Alerts share opportunities for research, writing, learning, and participation in projects and events related to U2 and topics associated with U2 that might be of interest to fans, students and scholars. Alerts are collected from a variety of sources and archived and distributed by Search this site for “U2 Studies Alert” to find more.

All needed details for each alert should be in the body text, but
contact if you need more information or have an item to share for a future alert.

U2 studies scholar Naomi Dinnen recently made her paper “You don’t see me but you will: Jewish thought and U2” free to download as a PDF. Dinnen is a PhD candidate researching U2 and religion at The Australian National University School of Music. We’re all looking forward to reading her dissertation on U2 when she completes her studies.

Naomi Dinnen’s paper “You don’t see me but you will: Jewish thought and U2” was first published in U2 and the Religious Impulse: Take Me Higher, edited by Scott Calhoun (Bloomsbury, 2018). A paperback edition of this collection of thirteen original essays on U2 scholarship will be available in late August 2019, and is available for pre-order now.

Call for Chapter Proposals
Researching Live Music: Gigs, Tours, Concerts and Festivals
(under contract with Taylor & Francis/Routledge)

Hurry! Deadline is in two-days, but perhaps you can ask the editors for a short extension. My apologies for the late notice. – SC

Edited by:
Chris Anderton (Solent University, Southampton, UK)
Sergio Pisfil (University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK)

We would like to encourage scholars from all disciplines to present chapter proposals for research that relates to one of three broad areas of the live music ecology. First, research that reconsiders the role of technology in the production of music events. Second, research that examines the complex set of industries and issues that surround the promotion and business of live music. Finally, research that explores the social issues and factors involved in the consumption of live music performances. Our objective is to bring together solid methodological and theoretical positions to provide a critical resource that casts new light on the practices of live music – past or present, and from any part of the world. 

Potential contributors are asked to propose chapters related to the following themes and suggested topics:

Producing live music. Topics may include but are not confined to:
Audio production, Lighting, Staging, Touring, Venues (problems facing venues; importance of local venues for artist and audience development), Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality (from the production side), Accessibility (disability), Health & well-being, Environmental sustainability.

Promoting live music. Topics may include but are not confined to:
Concert and event management, Booking agents, Concert & event marketing & PR, Branding and sponsorship, Ticketing / secondary ticketing, Corporatisation and mediatisation, Policy initiatives (e.g. music cities, gentrification), Heritage and nostalgia, Data management.

Consuming live music. Topics may include but are not confined to:
Social media integration, Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality (from the consumer side), Virtual live music communities, Bootlegging and tape-trading, Venues/festivals as music communities (could also be related to the problems of venues closing), Carnivalesque expectations (drugs, alcohol, sexual assault issues), Changing audiences (aging, gender etc), Ways of listening.

Submission Procedure:
Researchers are invited to send an abstract of no more than 300 words, together with a short biography to by July 26th 2019. Any questions concerning possible contributions can be addressed to the same e-mail.

Authors will be notified of the outcome of their proposals by late summer 2019.

Successful authors should subsequently submit completed chapters of between 5,000 and 6,000 words (inclusive of bibliography and endnotes) by July 24th, 2020.

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