Chalga To The Max! Musical Speech And Speech About Music On The Road Between Bulgaria And Modern Europe

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[Bloomington, Ind.] : Indiana University
This dissertation explores a discourse of democratic modernity in EU-member Bulgaria, which revolves around a hybrid popular music called chalga. I argue that chalga does not function as the name of a defined music genre. Rather, Bulgarians use it as a self-reflexive voice of ambivalence regarding the recontextualziation in liberal democracy of the socialist language ideology of evolutionary modernization: navaksvane--catching up--with Europe. On one hand, chalga indexes musical images that resonate with the current zeitgeist of modern European culture: aesthetical and social heterogeneity as well as commercial mass media. On the other hand, Bulgarians take this Ottoman-derived word as a non-referential index that invokes anxieties of Balkanism--a discursive trope of European modernity that has invented the Balkans as its liminal incomplete Self. As the ethnographic chapters of the dissertation show, Bulgarians deal with their ambivalence to chalga by seeking paternalist figures capable of imposing the language regimes of navaksvane when performers and audiences digress too much into coded zones of Balkan liminality. Regimenting modern popular music with top-down control points also to the political communication implicit in chalga. Cognizant of their inferior location vis-à-vis "real modern societies," ordinary Bulgarians seek paternalist leaders who can address them on an intimate level but are powerful enough to impose norms and practices circulating to Bulgaria from loci that represent the Occident. The expectation to have such leaders is not exclusive to democracy. It defined the political culture during socialism and even before. What is special to the contemporary era is the discursive formulation of such leadership, which I define as paternalistic populism. Bulgarians regard democracy as working in their country when it is guided from above by an authoritarian boss (shef), who knows how to anticipate the popular will, how to ally with bigger and external forces in order to overcome the society's marginality, and most importantly, how to act with "barbarous" Balkan aggression so as to put the nation in modern European order.
Thesis (Ph.D.) - Indiana University, Communication and Culture, 2014
Bulgaria, Chalga, Democracy, Modernity, Music, Socialism
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Doctoral Dissertation