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“With Microphone in Hand”: International Intervention, Musical Activism, and the Performance of Westernness in Postwar Kosova

November 17, 2023 @ 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm EST


The CUNY REEES Workshop is pleased to host Jane Sugarman, Professor of Music, CUNY Graduate Center, to present new research for feedback.

“Hello America” concert: Besart Halimi with Statues of Liberty

Abstract: Following the Kosovar War of 1998-1999, Kosova became a UN protectorate and home to myriad intergovernmental and international non-governmental organizations as well as NATO troops. In this environment, performances of Western-based pop music genres such as rock, R&B, and hip-hop became a way for the Albanian majority to negotiate Kosova’s relationship with North Atlantic countries by presenting its citizens as innately Western in their cultural orientation. In this study, Sugarman examines this dynamic through a focus on several prominent performers who took on the role of socially engaged artists in this period, recording songs and music videos that directly addressed issues affecting Kosovar society. As she will argue, Kosovar Albanian performers drew on Western-based pop music genres simultaneously to legitimate their society in the eyes of international institutions and to confront Western political hegemony by claiming a distinctive and oppositional voice. In doing so, they often further supported the very thing that many of them found problematic: the authority that international institutions retained over their society.

Jane Sugarman is an ethnomusicologist whose research has focused on the roles played by musical practices in processes of identity formation, with particular attention to communities in and from Southeastern Europe and the Middle East. In addition to extensive research on the relationship of musical practices to gender and sexuality, she has also written on issues of modernity and globalization, diaspora, nationalism, and conflict and post-conflict situations.  Her 1997 book Engendering Song: Singing and Subjectivity at Prespa Albanian Weddings, analyzes the elaborate, multiday wedding celebrations of a diasporic community, and the singing that dominates the activities, as sites for the negotiation of community notions of gendered identity. In 1998 it was awarded the Chicago Folklore Prize, presented by the American Folklore Society and the University of Chicago. In 2004 a second study related to issues of gender and sexuality, “Those ‘Other Women’: Dance and Femininity among Prespa Albanians,” was awarded the Jaap Kunst Prize by the Society for Ethnomusicology as the most significant article of the year.  More recently, she has examined the roles played by rural singing, as well as practices of folk song collection, in the development of the Albanian nationalist movement; and the participation of Albanian commercial music productions in the Kosova War of 1998-99.

This workshop will be held online only. Register via Zoom to attend. We will circulate a paper one week in advance for discussion.

The CUNY REEES Kruzhok is a space for scholars in the social sciences and humanities to share research in progress for feedback, with a wider aim of connecting specialists focused on this region within CUNY, New York, and further afield. It is coordinated by Mark Lewis (College of Staten Island/Graduate Center, CUNY), Merrill Sovner (EU Studies Center, Graduate Center, CUNY) and Lukasz Chielminski (Baruch College/CUNY Baccalaureate). It meets on selected Fridays at 12:30 pm ET during the semester. Email cunyreeeskruzhok@gmail.com to join the mailing list or express interest in presenting.


November 17, 2023
12:30 pm - 2:00 pm EST
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Merrill Sovner
Lukasz Chielminski
Mark Lewis