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Title:Song hunters in Svaneti: Musical tourism and other intercultural encounters in highland Georgia
Author(s):Knight, Matthew E.
Director of Research:Buchanan, Donna A.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Buchanan, Donna A.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Greenberg, Jessica; Silvers, Michael; Solis, Gabriel
Department / Program:Music
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Republic of Georgia
Intercultural Encounter
Cultural Institutions
Political Economy
Moral Economy
Georgian Polyphony
Georgian Folk Music
Folk Polyphony
Choral Music
Music Tourism
Cultural Tourism
Abstract:This dissertation analyzes the continuities and disjunctures between pre-socialist, socialist, and neoliberal Georgia, as exemplified in intersubjective, intracultural, and intercultural encounters between singers and musicians. It approaches these dynamics through an in-depth ethnographic examination of the Georgian highland region known as Svaneti, particularly examining the life of a key interlocutor: the Svan singer, instrumentalist, music teacher, folk ensemble director, and “songmaster” Islam Pilpani (1934–2017). In less than two decades, heavily mythicized Svaneti has gone from an isolated and dangerous rural backwater to a hot tourist destination that some fear is approaching the point of diminishing returns. Svan people, infamous for adhering to an exacting moral code of mountain hospitality and blood feud, have experienced startling changes to their way of life in this time period. The most entrepreneurial have capitalized on foreign fascination with Svaneti’s stunning natural landscapes and exotic, supposedly medieval culture. A key aspect of the latter is Svanetian music, which attracts foreign singers due to its archaism, connections to pagan ritual, and harmonies interpreted as strikingly dissonant. Intercultural encounters bear both risks and opportunities. As song tourists have expanded their own horizons and created new opportunities for Svan musicians, local musicking has shifted to accommodate and sometimes prioritize the needs of foreigners or lowland cultural administrators. By examining the relationships that develop between Svanetian musicians and people from other parts of the world, I uncover the power dynamics, agendas, and potentialities at play when localized musical customs become fetishized as commodities and artifacts of national cultural heritage.
Issue Date:2019-04-17
Rights Information:copyright 2019 Matthew E. Knight
Date Available in IDEALS:2019-08-23
Date Deposited:2019-05

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