Paper long abstract:
If you study Uzbek music, you are likely to work on court traditions, regional folklore or the urban underground. You are less likely to investigate estrada. As affirmative pop it lacks appeal to be examed in its own right, its musical properties, proponents and aesthetic discourses being taken seriously. But why are some genres obviously deemed worthier of academic interest than others?
I attribute this aesthetic hierarchisation of research topics to a latent romanticism in music studies, which I see also implicitly present in heuristic models and analytical concepts. In my paper I question the possibility to grasp the aesthetics of Uzbek estrada with recourse to terms like 'expression', 'imagination', 'inspiration' in light of Soviet ideological legacies and present cultural authoritarianism. Searching for alternative approaches, I argue for an anthropology of music that not only takes music's aesthetic quality serious, but seriously scrutinizes its own aesthetic biases and ideational premises.
Crises, imagination, and beyond: bringing aesthetics back into the anthropology of (popular) music