Currently, anthropology understands (popular) music as political practice in times of crisis. However, this perspective tends to neglect the specific aesthetic quality of music. It is the aim of this panel to ask how this very quality could be recognized in anthropological approaches to music.
Music's quality to inspire imagination without depending on verbal or visual means turns its analysis into a challenge for social and cultural sciences. In anthropology, two major developments - its historicization and its reception of Cultural Studies - shaped a new paradigm for the interpretation of music during the 1990s. While, up to that point, 'traditional' forms of music and their local contexts formed the core of anthropological approaches to music, it has since been increasingly discussed in the wider framework of 'popular culture', focusing on music's ability to express or anticipate crises, social change and generational conflict. Despite the insights of this approach, it may be criticized for neglecting the specific character of music as an expressive art form. This panel aims at overcoming reductionist political readings and asks how an anthropology of (popular) music should look like that takes popular music's aesthetic quality seriously.