Accepted paper:

Embodied performance: diaspora Balkan Romani music and dance


Carol Silverman (University of Oregon)

Paper short abstract:

Focusing on diasporic Muslim Macedonian Roma in Europe and New York, I analyze how music and dance express social relationships, status, conflict, gendered roles, and familial alliances. Embedded in dynamic performances and their mediated forms, performance emplaces Roma in a transnational network

Paper long abstract:

Music is a potent symbol of ethnicity for Roma in Balkan diaspora communities, where identity is constantly questioned and multiple allegiances compete. Focusing on Muslim Roma in Macedonia, Western Europe and New York, I analyze music and dance as gendered performances embedded in community ritual events. Furthermore, media performances such as videos and Youtube postings are trafficked across borders as a means to communicate in the diaspora. Music and dance express social relationships, status, and familial alliances; they are dynamic performative processes that can transform and build relationships, foster communication in the community or enact conflict. Because solo female dance is interpreted as sexualized, its dynamics are carefully monitored; women thus negotiate their display of sexuality via dance in varied contexts. The genre čoček is especially charged as both the badge of Romani ethnicity and the most potentially sexual, therefore potent art form. By comparing several sites of Romani community life in terms of attitudes, style and repertoire, I show how dance and music symbolically emplace men and women in meaningful rituals that encompass diasporic spaces. Through performance, Roma grapple with representational issues and enact multiple positions in transnational contexts. A wider political and economic context frames how musicians negotiate viable performances for various audiences, including their own communities, other ethnic communities of the Balkans, and non-Romani world music audiences. I highlight the Balkans because they are home to some of the most populous European Romani communities and because many of the most famous musicians have come from this region.

panel P224
Performing creativity and creating performances: dialogues and tensions on experiencing culture and making places