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Abstract

This dissertation explores the role of memory in Jewish musical performance in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Through ethnographic and archival research conducted between 2010 and 2014, I examine how Jewish Argentine musical performance constitutes a form of creative labor exerted on the past to renew contemporary cultural practices and expressions. These forms of musical engagement link the politics of memory in Argentina to Jewish theological imperatives tied to the biblical command to remember (Heb.: zakhor), as well as to modern concepts of tradition and cultural transmission. The musical processes connecting Jewish Argentines to memory claims position Jewish Argentine musical performance firmly within the paradoxes and contradictions of Latin American modernity, grounding debates about Jewish musical performance in national and regional discourses of racial, ethnic, and religious difference. In Buenos Aires, Jewish Argentine musical performance supports cultural and religious renewal initiatives led by key musicians, administrators, religious leaders, and other culture brokers. Emerging as a strategy of self-definition, musical performance spotlights the spectrum of community values, religious convictions, and ritual traditions invoking memory to mediate time, space, and Jewish embodiment. As “musical labors of memory,” musicians foster participation in everyday life in Buenos Aires, showcasing how the spaces of religious and ethnic identification are inextricably tied to the cultural imaginary. This dissertation addresses issues of performance, power, and identity associated with the musical processes of reclamación (protest and demand), recolección (recollection), resurgimiento (resurgence), renovación (renewal), and religión (religion).

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