Music and Conflict: Guest Lecture Dr. Catherine Baker, University of Hull an der Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
23.1.2013 Institut für Musik, Abt. Musikwissenschaft, Raum 471, 14.00 Uhr
Dr. Catherine Baker, University of Hull, UK
‘Popular music as an instrument of ethnic conflict: lessons from the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s’
Using illustrations from the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s and their aftermath, this paper argues that understanding popular music and public discourses about it can help to understand the dynamics of ethnopolitical conflict. Studies of war and conflict have approached music as political communication, as an object of securitization, as a means of violence, and as a symbol of ethnic difference, while international law in the context of another case of collective violence, Rwanda, has even begun to question (at the trial of Simon Bikindi) whether performing or broadcasting certain music could constitute the crime of incitement to genocide. Drawing on post-structuralist perspectives on the media and ethnicization in conflicts, this paper explores and interrogates the discourse of popular music as a weapon of war that was in use during and after the violent break-up of Yugoslavia. Music during the Yugoslav wars was used as a tool of humiliation and violence in prison camps, was used to provoke fear of the ethnic Other in line with a strategy of ethnic cleansing and was conceptualized as a morale asset for the troops of one’s own side. A discourse of music as a weapon of war was also in use and persisted after the war, when its referent was shifted to associate music-as-a-weapon not to the brave and defiant in-group so much as the aggressive Other. This was then turned against a wider range of signifiers than those who had directly supported the Other’s troops and had the effect of perpetuating ethnic separation and obstructing the re-formation of a (post-)Yugoslav cultural space. Despite evidence that music did serve as an instrument of violence in the Yugoslav wars and the precedent of the Bikindi indictment, the paper concludes that music should be integrated into understandings of ethnopolitical conflict not through a framework of incitement and complicity but with respect for the significance of music in the everyday.
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