Governing Baltimore by Music Scenes?: Insights from Governance and Governmentality Studies

Activity: Talk or presentationGuest lecturesResearch

Volker Kirchberg - Speaker

This criticism of a hierarchically enforced cultural policy is based on my understanding that the contemporary governmental obsession about generating ‘creative cities’ from the top down is an impossible effort for achieving ‘creativity’. Instead, my concept of a successful creative self-governance from the bottom up is exemplified here by specific urban structures and socio-political functions of two local popular music scenes in Baltimore, the Baltimore Club scene, and the Experimental/Instrumental scene. Both scenes are illustrations for a musical creativity that has prospered in Baltimore in the last years not despite but because of the lack of any governmental top-down interventions. The concept of self-governance is linked with the concept of governmentality by Foucault and his successors. In my own interpretation of governmentality, the chosen music scenes are interpreted as ‘regimes of practice’ with four empirically observable dimensions: visibility (in the case of music: auralization), knowledge (about styles, genres and bands), techniques (means of music production, distribution, consumption), and identities (cohesion through values and conventions). As the major characteristic of these musical ‘regimes of practice’, the ‘conduct by self-conduct’ expedites a creative process that also has become an important urban political factor because it shapes the community from the bottom up. Baltimore’s unplanned governmental ‘laissez faire’ attitude toward these cultural regimes is also sustainable because the successful local music scenes are communities steered by networks of artists and arts institutions that are diverse, resilient to outside pressure, and mostly devoid of coercion; instead they are based on volunteerism and inherent gratification.


Conference “New directions for research on Cities, Societies and Cultures” - 2013: Designing co-working for communities.

01.06.13 → …

London, United Kingdom

Event: Conference