Accepted paper:

Atmospheres and affective differences: an approach from cultural musicology


Friedlind Riedel (Georg-August-University Göttingen)

Paper short abstract:

Thinking about atmospheres in and through music enables me to ontologically conceptualise them as movement. Hence atmospheres cannot be grasped as constellations of things (Böhme 2013) but are rather an accumulation of movements that materialise in and as situations and produce affective thresholds.

Paper long abstract:

In my paper I focus on two aspects of atmospheres and their potential implications for anthropology. First I will argue that as emergent phenomena atmospheres are productive of socio-cultural territorialisations and communitisation. I shall refute the idea that atmospheres are vague and ephemeral as repeatedly asserted, and suggest that in repetition and as territorialising movements they can become perennial, productive of persistent affective thresholds we term cultural differences. Here music is a key agent of such communitisation as repetition is one of its basic movements. Secondly, atmospheres are wholes that are more than the sum of their parts just as music is more than the combination of frequencies and beats. The focus on atmospheres thus implies a turn away from singularities (Schmitz 1998, 2005), such as artefacts, sounds or practices, their constellations and putative meanings and a focus instead on the situational whole. In contrast to the notion of "a culture" or "an ethnic group" in reference to which singularities had been contextualised these wholes are not ideal nor merely discursive but are affective and real yet encompassing and, as I will show, non-anthropocentric. Drawing on fieldwork in Bulangshan in southern Yunnan (2008 - 2010) this paper seeks to explore the opportunities the concept of atmosphere may provide to disregard the questionable notion of "ethnicity" as a key category for difference. As movements, atmospheres may rather account both for cultural flows and affective, sometimes consistent, differences.

panel P03
Exploring 'atmospheres': an anthropological approach?