Accepted paper:

The sky is the limit: post-human dimensions in André Rieu popular culture


Irene Stengs (Meertens Institute)

Paper short abstract:

How do contemporary imaginations about the posthuman impact everyday practices of popular culture? This analysis takes André Rieu’s ambition to be the first to give a concert on the moon seriously, to present an ethnographic investigation of the significance of the posthuman in popular culture.

Paper long abstract:

Two questions underlie this presentation: How do contemporary imaginations about the post-human impact everyday practices of popular culture, and how to explore such imaginations ethnographically. Recent technological innovations have revived old-time fantasies of man overcoming the limitations imposed by the human body, in time (death) or in space (earth). My proposition is that the imaginative persuasiveness of these technologies works particularly well within the domain of celebrity culture. The 'stars' metaphor aptly captures the supposed superhuman achievements, qualities and potential inherent in celebrity status, whether these are attributed or self-ascribed. Freed from the butter-and-bread issues of everyday-life, the sky is the limit. The post-human fantasy dimension of celebrity culture works most salient where it concerns celebrities' bodies. 'Celebrities don't age': plastic surgery and other anti-aging technologies fill their glamour zone. Now, with time more and more on their side, the major challenge is to overcome 'space'. Where most celebrities work a lifetime to become global, now the first seek to go extraterrestrial. This presentation will focus on the ambitions of one of the latter: André Rieu, the violist and conductor known as 'the world's King of the Waltz'. In this respect, my interest lies not in André Rieu as an individual artist, but in 'André Rieu' as a broader cultural phenomenon. My analysis of 'André Rieu popular culture' (performances, material culture, hagiography, fans) will take Rieu's ambition to be the first to give a concert on the moon seriously, to investigate the significance of the post-human in popular culture.

panel P029
The post human: what is it good for? Anthropological perspectives