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Accepted Paper:

Rumors, sound-systems and the devil. Capitalism and the transformation of a village's sonic ecology in Romania.  


Jonathan Larcher (Université Paris Nanterre)

Paper short abstract:

Learning from the work of visual and sound anthropologists, this research reflects on the transformation of the sonic ecology of a "Gypsy Hood" in Romania, in the wake of the post-socialist transition.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper I will present how, in the course of an ethnography in the Romanian countryside, I gradually diverted my attention from the words of the musical genre of "manele" and the "lautari" (musicians) to listen more attentively to the noises and nuisances of the street.

This presentation is based on a long ethnography of almost 13 years in a Romanian village, where many families of lautari live. This survey, mostly conducted with a camera, focused particularly on the vernacular visual culture and the transformation of the labor economy in a context, since the early 2000s, marked by the post socialist transition and a growing income disparity between families. In a community where reciprocity is sought after and valued, recording the sonic ecology of the street, caught between sound-systems and gossip, questions inevitably the transformations brought by the arrival of a market economy.

Learning from the work of Steven Feld, this research reflects on the transformation of material culture - from cars to chainsaws and sound amplification systems - but also on the transformation of a sonic ecology marked by distrusts and competition (like the music used to cover up conversations in the ears of neighbours or, on the contrary, to defy them). For my interlocutors, therefore, the evil is less to be found in the lyrics of certain songs - as some of the evangelical Christians who are very present in the neighbourhood might suggest - than in the commodities and the sound transformations of the soundscape.

Panel P169
Affection of Sounds and Politics in South-Eastern Europe: Challenges and Perspectives