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Book launch of "Popular Music in Contemporary Bulgaria: At the Crossroads" by Asya Draganova

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Book launch of "Popular Music in Contemporary Bulgaria: At the Crossroads" by Asya Draganova


This research seminar consists of a series of talks addressing popular music at the “crossroads”, used as a metaphor for struggle and change, explored in the recently published monograph Popular Music in Contemporary Bulgaria by Asya Draganova, launched at this event. The issues discussed link with the BCMCR theme “Borders and Hinterlands” and include popular music in relation to political and economic transitions, concepts of alternativity and marginalisation, and the use of ethnography to gain insight into dynamic contemporary cultural fields.

Dr. Patrycja Rozbicka (Aston University) Brexit and the UK live music industry: A tangled web? (taking a stock 2016-2018) 

The question of a fallout from Brexit on the music industry is haunting a number of analysts. The trend in mushrooming publications (see for example: Billboard and Pitchfork portals) and media coverage (with the Guardian and Politico.eu taking lead) confirms the existing interest in the topic, which is further fired by the UK Government’s lack of progress in the negotiations since 2016. Most of the analysts draw a distinction between the immediate-short term effect of the “leave” result stemming from the referendum and the long-term consequences of evoking article 50 and the UK leaving the European Union (EU). Contrary to the general focus on the cultural sector and leaving aside the short-term consequences, this talk focuses on possible scenarios resulting from upcoming Brexit negotiations for a specific sub-sector of economy: the live music industry.

Prof. Karl Spracklen (Leeds Beckett University) Making Sense of Alternativity in Leisure and Culture: Back to Sub-Culture?

What does it mean to be alternative? What is alternativity, and how does it relate to other attempts to make sense of those on the margins? In the first part of this paper, I will undertake a history and philosophy of alternativity, from deviance through sub-cultures to neo-tribes. This will focus on four related conceptual frames: the deep history of alternativity; notions of alternativity in classical Greece and Rome and in the Abrahamic religions; popular notions of alternativity in what might be called the age of modernity; and academic attempts to understand it in various disciplines and subject fields. In the second part, I will focus on how alternativity has been explored in two specific subject fields – leisure studies and popular cultural studies – to make the claim that both subject fields have failed, for different reasons, to get to grips with the idea of the alternative. In the final part, I will attempt to reconcile leisure and culture, and I will sketch out a new theory and empirical programme of alternative leisure that returns to the idea of sub-culture as counter culture.

Prof. Shane Blackman (Cantebury Christ Church University) Supervising Ethnographies

The narrative structure of before, during and after is a common organising principle in creative literary work, but it also applies to working with PhD students and has particular emotional intensity when supervising PhD research students who undertake ethnographic studies.  

Here I will reflect on what it means to supervise ethnographies. 

It is personal, it is political, and it is a pleasure!  Supervising ethnographies is a story of an intimacy, an experience of sharing and an exchange. Such pressures can be exhausting and even frustrating. This form of emotional and intellectual labour places demands on the sociological imagination to show reciprocal courage as uncertainty, excitement and commitment blur through the stages of academic development based upon involvement.

Dr. Asya Draganova (BCU) Popular Music in Contemporary Bulgaria: At the Crossroads

This short talk will introduce my first monograph, published in March 2019 as part of the series Emerald Studies in Alternativity and Marginalization. The book presents a study of Bulgarian popular music, the meanings it articulates, and the infrastructures of its creation, which operate within a web of inter-dependencies with changing social and political contexts. Positioned on the edge of Europe, between the cultural constructs of the 'East' and 'West', Bulgarian popular music negotiates a symbolic dialogue of perceived 'global' values and the specificities of the 'local'.  

The research engaged with an ethnographic approach to qualitative methodologies to create a mosaic of perspectives through the participation of music artists, critics, business figures, copyright specialists, and young audiences. In the monograph, the metaphor of the 'crossroads' is used to describe the realities of the contemporary Bulgarian popular music field, developed amidst the prolonged transitions that followed the communist era. In the context of struggle for social change, popular music has participated in the creation of rituals of protest and resistance. At the same time, the new market environment has created opportunities for popular music to formulate a business approach to producing standardised content. 

The Balkans, where Bulgaria is situated, are a melting pot of music traditions but are also framed as pathologically different from the rest of Europe. Speaking to this year’s BCMCR theme Borders and Hinterlands, the monograph suggests that an internalised “Balkanism” (Todorova 2009) adds tacit complexities to Bulgarian popular music culture. At the same time, expressive markers of identity, such as folklore and language, are celebrated.

The book can be purchased from the publisher at this link and from Amazon at this link.


About the speakers:

Patrycja Rozbicka is a lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Aston University, Birmingham (Aston Centre for Europe). Her main areas of interest and publications include: regulation of the music industry, participation of interest groups in the European and national political systems; and IR_Aesthetics. Correspondence: Aston University, School of Languages and Social Sciences, Aston Triangle, Birmingham, B4 7ET, UK;cCAhIHJvemJpY2thIHwgYXN0b24gISBhYyAhIHVr.

Karl Spracklen is a Professor of Sociology of Leisure and Culture at Leeds Beckett University, UK. He is the author of many books, papers and book chapters, and currently the Principal Editor of Metal Music Studies. He is also the co-editor of the Emerald book series Alternativity and Marginalization.

Shane Blackman worked in the music industry as a Manager of an Our Price Record store in central London.  In 1990 he finished his Ph.D in Sociology, on an ESRC doctoral studentship at the Institute of Education, University of London. He is the author of Chilling Out: the cultural politics of substance consumption, youth and drug policy, Open University Press, 2004, the editor of 'The Subcultural Imagination: Theory, Research and Reflexivity in Contemporary Youth Cultures,' Routledge, 2016, with Michelle Kempson, editor of Youth Marginality in Britain: contemporary studies of austerity. Policy Press, 2017 with Ruth Rogers.  Shane is an Editor of the International Journal of Youth Studies and also an Editor of YOUNG: the Nordic Journal of Youth Research.

Asya Draganova is a Doctor of Media and Cultural Studies. She is a Lecturer in Media and Communications at the Birmingham School of Media and co-leads the Popular Music Research Cluster at the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research. Asya has published her research on topics including popular music in Bulgaria, post-punk scenes, popular music heritage, and the Canterbury Sound.



Map C284, Curzon B, Birmingham City University, Birmingham, United Kingdom
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