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Accepted Paper:

In the wake of enchantment: musical vibrations in the aftermath of political failure  
Yana Stainova (McMaster University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper argues for enchantment as a method and theoretical lens for analyzing the imaginative and material afterlife of dreams and hopes for the future in the face of failed political projects. It is based on fieldwork with musicians at Venezuela’s classical music education program El Sistema.

Paper long abstract:

“Me encanta,” Venezuelan musicians would say about music, meaning that they are enchanted by it, that they love it. As the word “cantar” nestled within “encantar” demonstrates, enchantment also describes the act of being surrounded by song and sound. In this paper, I propose enchantment as an ethnographic method and mode of critical analysis for understanding how people make sense of the failure of political and personal life projects. Based on 16 months of ethnographic fieldwork with musicians at the classical music education program El Sistema in Venezuela, I describe enchantment as a medium for sensing the world-building potential of people’s engagement with music practices. Enchantment captures the transformative effect of aesthetic experience, as well as the dreams for the future that are conjured through it. I study the fate of such enchantments as the political revolution in Venezuela, spearheaded by Hugo Chavez, crumbled and sent the country into a humanitarian crisis. Many El Sistema musicians fled to Europe and other parts of Latin America. Following my interlocutors as they moved to Paris, in this paper I ask: How do people think about their past enchantments in the aftermath of political failure? What is the role of nostalgia in how people make sense of their past and present? What vestiges of enchantment – both material and imaginative – perdure in the ruins of political, social, and personal failure? What are our responsibilities as anthropologists in representing our interlocutors’ enchantments, past and present?

Panel Speak01
Affect as cultural critique: somatic engagements with enchantment, creativity and play
  Session 1 Thursday 1 April, 2021, -