“Between the experience of living a normal life at this moment on the planet and the public narratives being offered to give a sense of that life, the empty space, the gap, is enormous.” —John Berger
Estate: a reverie
Estate: one’s home and money
Estate: a mansion or a plantation
Estate: order or class of a political community
Estate: landed property, especially in the countryside
Estate: property development, especially of new houses
Estate: property or possessions, especially of the deceased
Estate: state, period or position in life, especially with regard to wealth or social standing
To appreciate the role of aesthetics in politics, we might look to the recent resurgence of popular anti-corruption movements in India. In 2011 and 2012, mass protests by supporters of the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement focused around spectacular fasts by the social activist Anna Hazare. Hazare’s projection of moral authority draws upon a well-established Indian idiom of non-party “saintly politics” (Morris-Jones 1963). The ascetic aesthetic of this approach, in Hazare’s case, is projected through the adoption of simple, hand-woven khadi cotton clothes and practices of abstinence (Pinney 2014; Webb 2014). More recently, a new political formation, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), or the Common Man Party, headed by Hazare’s erstwhile IAC colleague Arvind Kejriwal has been promoting an ethical and anti-corruption alternative in electoral politics.
In the opening sequences of Desert People (1967, 49 minutes, Australian National Film Board), we read, “This is a film on two families of the western Australian desert.” But in fact the film’s real subject is the wonderful Gibson Desert—whose textural surface is magically rendered by black and white 35mm film—and the relationship with “its” people as they constantly move across it, stopping only for short moments of rest. This relationship is marked by material scarcity and hard labor. We see boys and men restlessly digging the hard surface of the desert with spears and wooden tools. We see their bodies slowly disappearing inside it, to reappear with handfuls of water, small lizards, and rats. We see women making food out of wild grass. We see families gathering to eat, forced into a momentary standstill by the heat of the sun at midday.
Podemos is hailed by many as the only hope in a Spanish landscape devastated by austerity. In the elections to the European parliament (2014), Podemos received 7.97 percent of votes and 5 MPs. In the elections to the Autonomous Parliament of Andalucía, it gathered 14.84 percent of the vote and 15 regional MPs, becoming the third party after the Socialist Party (PSOE) and the Popular Party (PP). The fragmentation of political parties in the regional parliament forewarns of what will be the possible result of the next Spanish general elections at the end of 2015. It underscores the end of bipartisan politics and the need for different alliances and hopefully new priorities. Does Podemos signal a radical political change? A new way of doing politics? Here come the thoughts of an anthropologist who is not yet convinced by their rhetoric or their practice.
Capital’s resilience as technologies and cultures change lies in the systematic priority placed on value development and extraction. However, this does not imply that actors in these systems clearly understand their roles in the process. As industries change, equal amounts of optimism comingle with confusion as practitioners experiment with new roles and practices that they had not anticipated. In this article, I explore such changes and adaptations in the music industry following the advent of digital technology and the Internet. Specifically, I look at how musicians have had to rethink where their value lies for listeners and how some have come to believe that it rests in developing and exploring online social communities.
Karnatic music, or South Indian classical music, is understood as “religious” music, deemed to be “divinely inspired,” and performers are seen as embodying the divine. Because of its association with “religion,” Karnatic music is generally considered a shared traditional knowledge that has historically been bequeathed from one generation to another through oral teaching. However, at the same time, Karnatic music also has a complex history with capitalism, having been constructed by bourgeois-nationalist elites in the early twentieth century from traditions that formed an inseparable part of the operation of temples and courts. This history has recently become further complicated. Some contemporary Karnatic musicians, while adhering to the beliefs of the “religious” and “divine” nature of the tradition and indeed the creativity of musicians therein, now raise concerns about protecting individual creativity and performances—specifically against unauthorized recordings of performances in concert halls and the availability of such recordings on the Internet (Paitandy 2011).
There was a strong relationship between music and political-economic power in the precolonial Congo basin. This was because music was an integral part of a ritual nexus that dominated social life. Those who controlled the ritual nexus became rich and powerful, and controlled trade between locals and an expanding capitalism (MacGaffey 2000). Here I will show how music was important to this interface.
In contemplating music and capitalism, we might imagine alternative framings to “art versus commerce.” Art versus commerce understands music as perpetually compromised between musicians’ desire to produce l’art pour l’art in a context in which they must be commodity producers. In this regard, the challenge facing musicians is to register discourses of truth, authenticity, and subjectivity within the structure of commodity production (Frith and Horne 1987). Arguably, the primary theoretical reference for such analysis is presented by Adorno and Horkheimer’s ( 1997) culture industry thesis, which posits a negative dialectic between orders of culture and industrial production. By focusing on the possibility of artistic production autonomy, a shift seems to take place wherein the spirit or aesthetic possibility claimed by the artist becomes emphasized and the music is analyzed with such spirit in mind.
David Harvey (2014) cites alienation as a catalytic concept fundamental to animating political action in order to displace and dispossess the many-headed hydra of late global capitalism. However, despite its position as a basic contradiction of capitalism, there is still only passing consideration in even Marxist music scholarship of the topic of alienation, even though music and capitalism in general is receiving increasing attention.
The literature on sustainable livelihoods in the field of development studies emphasizes the importance of fostering diverse sources of income for economic entities like individuals, families, and communities (Chambers and Conway 1992). Especially in rural areas, economic actors often cope with shocks and stresses by spreading their bets, using different forms of capital (such as human, economic, and physical) to produce specific livelihood strategies (Scoones 1998: 6–8). Some (see O’Brien Bernini 2015) have recognized the relevance of this approach to music making. Continue reading