The conference is at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts at the 

University of Sussex


Thursday 21 June

1.30 – 2.00   Gardner Tower

Registration and Refreshments


2.00 – 2.15   ACCA Auditorium



2.15 – 3.30    ACCA Auditorium

Keynote Presentation: Melissa Blanco Borelli

“Put Your Body In It”: Disco, Divas, and Dance Studies


3.30 – 4.00     Gardner Tower

Refreshment Break


4.00 – 6.00     ACCA Auditorium

Sylvester and Disco Culture: The Artist, Icon, Diva in His Time and Ours

Host: Joshua Gamson

Malik Gaines

You Are My Friend: Intimacy and Sylvester’s Disco

Jason King

You Are My Friend: Sylvester’s 1979 Living Proof Album as a Document of Social Compassion

Adrian Loving

Glam Rock Fantasy to Black Futurism: A Portrait of Sylvester in Album Cover Art

Louis Niebur

Menergy: Sylvester and the Creation of the San Francisco Disco Sound

David McAlmont

The Sound of Sylvester


6.00 – 7.15    ACCA Bar

Wine Reception


Friday 22 June


9.00 – 9.30    Gardner Tower

Registration and Refreshments


9.30 – 10.45    ACCA Auditorium

Keynote Presentation:  Tim Lawrence

Title tbc


10.45 – 11.15     Gardner Tower

Refreshment Break


11.15 – 1.00

Parallel Sessions 1 & 2

Session 1:

Jane Attenborough Studio

Marko Zubak

Disco in Eastern Europe: Mainstreaming Socialist Decadence

Flora Pitrolo

I Wanna Be Fantastic World: The Mass Fantasy of Italo Disco

Greg Booth

Disco, Dancing, Globalisation: Indigeneity and Class in 1980s Hindi Cinema

Chair: Michael Lawrence


Session 2:

Workshop Studio

Caroline Kennedy

Rain, Glitter: The Disco Song as a Conceptual Space in Song-Based Music Composition

John Richardson & Stephen Woodward

Life in the City Can Be So Hard: Disco and Anomie

Jaap Kooijman

Hotter Than Hell: Heaven as Metaphor in Pre- and Post-AIDS Disco

Chair: Laura Nash


1.00 – 2.00     Gardner Tower



Jane Attenborough Studio


(Tell Me Why) The Epistemology of Disco

John Di Stefano, US, 1991: 24 minutes


2.00 – 4.00

Parallel Sessions 3 & 4


Session 3:

Jane Attenborough Studio

Mark Thorley

Staying Alive: How Record Producers Kept Disco on Life Support

Eliot D’Silva & Andrew Key

Partying in the Provinces

Laura Nash & Andrew Virdin

No Sneakers: Disco’s Influence on Early Hip-Hop

Lesley Model

Countering Copyright: The Disco Edit

Chair: Mimi Haddon


Session 4:

Workshop Studio

Louis Niebur

The National Tea Dance: The Forging of a Unified Gay Identity

Jack Parlett

The First Days of Disco: Queer Nostalgia in Andrew Holleran’s Fire Island

Leon Clowes

Got Any Gay Music? London’s ‘Anti-Gay’ Queer Clubs 1995-2000

Cagri Yilmaz

Not Gay in the Disco: Amusing Themselves to Death

Chair: Joe Wlodarz


4.00 – 4.30      Gardner Tower

Refreshment Break


4.30 – 6.15

Parallel Sessions 5 & 6


Session 5:

Jane Attenborough Studio

Lucas Hilderbrand

Further Tales of the City: The Queer Generation Gap in Post-Disco San Francisco

Craig Jennex

Cruising the Historical Dance Floor: Temporal Drag and the Promise of Queer Collectivity

Alexin Tenefrancia

Queer Nightlife as Art, Community and Practice

Chair: Michael Lawrence


Session 6

Workshop Studio

Daniel Kane

‘Let’s Go Down Where the Love Is’: Arthur Russell, Allen Ginsberg and the Making of Hippie Disco

Inger Damsholt

Let the Music Take Control: Disco, Choreomusicology, Mickey Mousing

Tamara Tomic-Vajagic

Disco or Not Disco

Chair: Arabella Stanger


6.15 – 6.30

Comfort Break


6.30 – 7.00     Workshop Studio

Scott Caruth

Refractions of a Biography



7.15 – 11.00     ACCA Bar

Dinner and Disco!



Saturday 23 June


10.00 – 10.30:      Gardner Tower

Registration and Refreshments


10.30 – 12.30

Parallel Sessions 7 & 8


Session 7

Jane Attenborough Studio

Mimi Haddon

Death Disco not Death to Disco: Mainstream Music and the Racialised Body in Post-Punk’s Borrowing from Disco

Chelsea Adewunmi

Make It Last Forever: Boogie and the Afterglow of Disco

Jared Gampel

Modern Funk as Postmodern Disco

Adrian Loving

Making of a DJ: Memoirs by Ron Trent of Chicago’s Early Club Scene

Chair: Keith Gildart


Session 8

Workshop Studio

Alex Jeffery

Once Upon A Time in Discoland: Donna Summer’s Transnational Fairy Tale Concept Album-Dancefloor

Joe Wlodarz

Macho, Macho Men: Village People and the Crossover of the Gay Clone

Marie Josephine Bennet

I Bet He Looks Good on the Dancefloor: Queering/ Unqueering John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever

Claudia Lisa Moeller

Rafaella Carra: The Sexual Disco Revolution for the Whole Family

Chair: John Richardson


12.30 – 1.30       Gardner Tower



Jane Attenborough Studio


(Tell Me Why) The Epistemology of Disco

John Di Stefano, US, 1991: 24 minutes



1.30 – 3.30

Parallel Sessions 9 & 10


Session 9

Jane Attenborough Studio

Keith Gildart & Ros Watkiss

The English Civil (Disco) War 1976-7: Northern Soul, Subculture and Saturday Night Fever

Mark E. Perry

Disco Sucks: The Decline and Fall of Disco Music

Jakub Machek

From Disco-Games to Disco-Story: The Role of Disco in the Late Socialist Czechoslovakia

Qian Wang

Dancing the Desire, Dancing the Revolution: Sexuality and Politics of Disco in 1980s and 2010s China

Chair: Tamara Tomic-Vajagic


Session 10

Workshop Studio

Ivan L. Munuera

Discotecture: The Bodily Regime of Archi-Social Exploration

Kathe Gray

Stayin’ Alive: A Conversation Between Disco and Neoliberalism

Michael Castelle

If Love is the Message, What is the Transaction: On the Downtown Duality of Disco and Finance

Michael Lawrence

Burn, Baby, Bun: Disco Dancing and Aerobic Exercise – Working It and Working Out

Chair: Lucas Hilderbrand


3.30 – 4.00      Gardner Tower

Refreshment Break


4.00 – 5.30        ACCA Auditorium


Chelsea Adewunmi, Sara Jane Bailes, Lesley Model, Flora Pitrolo, Lucy Robinson

Chair: Arabella Stanger


5.30 – 6.00         ACCA Auditorium

Closing Discussion






University of Sussex, 21-23 June 2018



Call for Papers:

From its origins as a New York City subculture amongst gay, black and Latinx practitioners, and its transition into the mainstream, to its subsequent lives across international scenes, disco poses pivotal questions about the entanglements of art, industry, identity, and community. Disco is the site of many significant and lasting debates in popular culture, including those surrounding the figures of the DJ and the diva, the status and significance of dancing bodies, the tension between what is authentic and what is synthetic, and the historic maligning of society’s others.

This major interdisciplinary international conference aims to examine and expand these debates. We therefore invite researchers from a range of academic backgrounds to re/consider disco cultures in their shifting historic and social contexts. We hope to explore disco as a tentacular phenomenon that reaches across multiple sites of production and consumption, from music and dance to fashion and film.

Keynote Presentations by:

Melissa Blanco Borelli (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Tim Lawrence (University of East London).

We welcome proposals for conference papers of 20 minutes but also for pre-formed panels, roundtable discussions, or formats that allow for the presentation of praxis (installations, lecture performances, for instance).

Please send a 300-word abstract, along with a short biography and indication of the format of your proposed presentation to: disco@sussex.ac.uk by Friday 2 March 2018.

  • We are extending our deadline to Monday 19 March to express our solidarity with UK academics who will be continuing to strike during March
  • https://www.ucu.org.uk/strikeforuss


Potential points of entry:

Disco as interdiscipline: music, dance, film, fashion, culture, fandom

Disco as place: Disco reaches beyond its NYC origins. How has disco travelled? What are its different geographic and cultural contexts?

Disco as space: What kinds of spaces are explored by disco – its dancefloors, its clubs, its streets, its towns?

Disco as identity: Disco’s queerness, disco’s blackness, disco’s Latino/a-ness, disco’s women. Who made disco and for whom was it made? What other disco populations exist out there today? Considering disco’s appropriation by white-dominated culture.

Disco as history: Disco has outlasted its heyday in the 1970s. What were its historical roots and what have been (and will be) its futures?

Disco as affect: sweat, strobe, glitter, ecstasy, sex, stamina

Death to disco: How has disco been attacked? Exploring backlash, homophobia, racism, and rockism


Mimi Haddon (Lecturer in Music, School of Media, Film and Music)

Michael Lawrence (Reader in Film Studies, School of Media, Film and Music)

Arabella Stanger (Lecturer in Drama: Theatre and Performance, School of English)

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