Accepted Paper:

Post-socialism? Anti-socialism! Taking stock of the anthropology of music on Central Asia  

Author:

Kerstin Klenke

Paper short abstract:

Western anthropology of music’s anti-socialist stance hinders the field from seriously engaging with Central Asian post-socialism. Countering the concept of traditionality, I propose an approach to post-socialist cultural production that transcends the common binarism of affirmation vs. opposition.

Paper long abstract:

In the early 2000s, with the brand new Garland Encyclopedia of World Music and the seventh edition of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, western anthropology of music presented two dense repositories of the state of its art at the same time. Remarkably, the entries on Central Asian music contain hardly anything on the post-socialist era. Even more remarkably, they contain hardly anything on the socialist era either. Instead, for the most part, the texts dwell on Central Asian music as it was (or can be imagined to have been) in late 19th century - albeit written in the present tense. Whatever else this peculiar narrative strategy achieves, it certainly manages to present the Soviet era as academically negligible. Entering the realm of individual research on Central Asian music, this anti-socialist stance translates into a predominance of studies on pre-Soviet musical traditions, their resilience and revival, whereas socialist musical innovations and additions are mostly met with ignorance or dismissal.

In my paper, I will explore the reasons for anthropology of music's anti-socialist attitude, its consequences - and an antidote. Drawing on my own research on Uzbek estrada and the work of scholars like Alexei Yurchak, I will problematise the temporal logic of the field's reigning paradigm and propose an approach that transcends the common habit of defining cultural production as either affirmative or oppositional. I will show, how shedding binary thinking and an essentialist understanding of traditionality, enables the anthropology of music to importantly contribute to conceptualising cultural processes - beyond the post-socialist realm and beyond music.

Panel P031
Postsocialism and anthropology: theoretical legacies and European futures