August 30, 2013

Thomas Hodgson: Transnational landscapes: Music festivals in Pakistan and England (and the post-nation-state)

Filed under: hearing landscape critically,music — ABRAXAS @ 12:30 pm


An unprecedented level of migration into the United Kingdom following World War II has led to radical shifts in the country’s demographics, communities (broadly defined) and culture. The impact of these changes has been felt and contested across Britain, from street corners to government corridors, giving rise to continuing debates about migration, multiculturalism and nationalism in Britain. One of the critical questions in these debates from an ethnomusicological perspective is how communities respond musically to increasing levels of ethnic and religious diversity. In a way, this is not a new question. The relationship between space and place, music and nationalism is long and complex. Yet in the early 21st century, the ‘nation state’, so often invoked as a clear pillar of national identity, is given further complication by migration and processes of globalisation.
Pakistanis have been part of the UK’s cultural and religious landscape for over 60 years. Their influence in the UK is felt along many levels: from politics, health and education, to cuisine, sport and music. Pakistanis, needless to say, are heterogeneous in their ethnicity, religiosity and piety. And yet, three generations down the line, they are still frequently understood on one level: Muslim. This narrow definition is also often moored to particular geographic areas, whereby the religious marker is coupled with locality and visa-versa. Nowhere is this more apparent than in discourses surrounding Muslims in the northern city of Bradford. How, then, is Pakistani diasporic experience to be understood within a British context? How is physical space organised and structured sonically, across national boundaries? There seems to be a problem of scale (which this paper will move to evaluate) between the local and particular, and the national and global. To negotiate this dynamic this chapter will look at two music festivals (melas), in Bradford and Pakistan, and finish by connecting the discussion to recent moves in anthropology and, indeed, musicology toward ‘the city’, ‘urban space’ and ‘the metropolis’ as spaces of academic enquiry.


Thomas Hodgson (King’s College London) has just begun a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at King’s College London. Having completed his DPhil at Oxford last summer (and stayed on for a year as a college lecturer), he is now looking forward to three years of research looking at Mirpuri Muslim musical culture in the UK and Pakistan. Outside of academia, Tom has written various articles and programmes for the New Statesman, The Times and BBC Radio 2. He also plays trumpet, keyboard and the spoons in Stornoway.

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