Taylor S <3

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Here's Everything You Need To Know About The Taylor Swift Fanposium

RMIT's Taylor Swift academic conference, Swiftposium, is handing the power over to fans with a dedicated 'Fanposium'.

When I heard that the University of Melbourne, the Royal Institute of Technology Melbourne (RMIT University) and four other universities across Australia and New Zealand were holding a world first 'Swiftposium', a conference bringing together academics, media and culture experts/professionals and Taylor Swift fans, my initial thought was that we were being made fun of.

Surely institutions as highly committed to the collection, collation and communication of knowledge, in its inherent power as these, weren’t really acknowledging that one of the most powerful forces in literature, communication, media and business of the current age was a nearly six foot sparkly blonde pop star.

That kind of serious legitimisation of a woman’s perspective, her art and its impact just didn’t happen. That is, until now. 

When and where is the Taylor Swift Swiftposium and Fanposium?

Over the course of three days from February 11 to 13, the city of Melbourne will transform into a hub for Swiftian scholars, in a Swiftposium conference built on over 400 submissions. Only 130 of those by the way were accepted, from 78 academic institutions in over 60 countries across the world. The Fanposium part is on the first day, February 11 at The Capitol at RMIT.

Who are the speakers at the Fanposium?

Aside from the subject matter, what makes this conference unique is the gravitas and space it gives to the exploration, experience and analysis of Swift, by fans as much as professors and experts, with a specifically curated ‘Fanposium’ as part of the agenda. Attendees will also be able to watch the first Australian public screening of the 2020 Miss Americana documentary.

In a press release about the Swiftposium, Dr Eloise Faichney, lecturer in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne, summed it up best when she said: “Swift’s work provides a diverse and rich context for scholars across disciplines to critically explore understandings of popular culture, literature, the economy, health, science, the music industry and more. We’re really excited to hear from a range of leading scholars at the conference.” 

Keynote addresses at the conference will be delivered by Dr. Georgia Carroll, a researcher at the University of Sydney whose work explores fandom and celebrity, as well as Rolling Stone journalist and teacher of a Taylor Swift-focused class at NYU, Brittany Spanos who will critically examine Swift’s career in relation to the music industry, musicology, feminism and race.

For those of you who might scoff at dedicating your research to something so ‘frivilous’, I offer that without pop culture as a means of influence, conversation and reference, our understanding of each other, systems of power and the world around us would be significantly reduced. 

Other papers to be presented cover topics such as lyrical poetics, cyber-security, AI, mental health, PR, Swiftonomics, and the philosophy of Taylor Swift.

Who else has world leaders using social media to literally beg them to bring their tour to their country or city? Such is the force with which Swift’s presence propels and stabilises economies.

There will also be a stream devoted to Swift as a teaching tool in higher education, following recent academic subjects devoted to Swift at institutions including Harvard University, Stanford University and NYU. If you’re going to be teaching concepts across disciplines like gender studies, politics technology and a range of other areas, why not use the loudest woman this town has ever seen?

How can I get Fanposium tickets?

It's no surprise that just like her concert, these tickets were in high demand. Free tickets became available on Monday, January 8 and sold out within 24 hours. However, you can join the waitlist here.

What makes the Fanposium unique?

Fan inclusion at this event feels particularly poignant given the still persistent narrative steeped in misogyny and sexism, that Swift fans are screaming little girls who don’t understand the world and are simply unhealthily obsessed with a woman who writes too many breakup songs. Funny how no one says that about fans of the guy on the Chiefs (in spite of the countless parallels between football and music fandom) coming straight home to… you know what, never mind. 

Not only does this tired take dramatically undermine and trivialise the expansive universe Swift has spent a lifetime building, but it also continually reinforces the idea that things enjoyed by young women and girls have less value because of the audiences they attract. Why are the opinions and tastes of young women considered to be so much less valuable than that of young men? Could it be this damned system we call patriarchy messing us around again?

This is the part where I point out that in the 1960’s, Beatlemania attracted many of the same opinions only for the world to now, decades later, almost unanimously agree that the Fab Four are one of the driving forces behind what we recognise as contemporary music today. Their impact is everywhere, even if not always easily recognisable. And truthfully so is Swift’s.

You can hear it in the newest generation of musicians taking the pop world by storm, from Gracie Abrams and Maisie Peters to Conan Gray, Olivia Rodrigo and girl in red among others. You can see it in the changes made to the industry whereby young women in particular are scrunitising their contracts with a more precise eye and retaining control of their master recordings in the process, all spurred by the Taylor’s Version project which has seen Swift reclaim her first six albums in the kind of risk-taking strategy that so many said would fail. It’s even in the film industry where Swift made history earlier this year by being the first to broker a cinematic deal directly between distributor (AMC) and artist, bypassing studios entirely after they lowballed offers for her box office juggernaut of an Eras Tour film. 

I can’t wait to see what learnings come out of this Fanposium, and what this does for not only women in academic fields, but also the legitimisation of women as subjects worthy of study and analysis.

What will this mean for the way young women learn about themselves, their experiences and how the world sees them? What will it mean for the greater canon of womanhood? I guess we’ll find out in just a few weeks. Are you ready for it?