Accepted Paper:

A public square, a stadium, a theatre: experiencing the nation through popular music in Croatia  


Catherine Baker (University College, London)

Paper short abstract:

This paper draws on participant observation of three musical events in Croatia to explore how the nation is experienced through popular music.

Paper long abstract:

Recent thinking about nationalism and nationhood (Michael Billig, Katherine Verdery, Alex Bellamy) encourages us to consider how the nation is experienced and reconstituted through social practice, while David Kertzer's political anthropology suggests that belonging involves reconciling divergent understandings of the nation (etc.) under particular symbols demonstrated through ritual - which may usefully be combined with Richard Jenkins's emphasis on performativity in expressing social identity. This paper explores these ideas using the example of popular music. The mutuality involved in forming part of an audience at a musical performance might offer a way to experience the nation: but who is being mutual with whom, how is it expressed, and does their interaction actually reflect on the national level of belonging?

In Croatia, popular music has often been used to articulate national identity narratives (frequently connected with war memory and/or particular localities). It has also been a site of struggle over the location of cultural boundaries between Croatia and the east/the Balkans/Serbia/Bosnia. Various understandings of nationhood are therefore attached to Croatian popular music, making it an appropriate site for observing the reconstitution of nationhood through mutuality. This paper draws on nine months of ethnographic fieldwork in Croatia, and particularly on participant observation of three events in 2007: a concert in central Zagreb to celebrate a Croatian sporting victory; a stadium concert held by a well-known patriotic singer, Marko Perković Thompson; a performance of a drama satirising the decline of old-fashioned Zagreb life and the rise of popfolk music (pejoratively, 'turbofolk').

Panel W027
Sounding ethnography: mutuality and diversity in musical life