Alexander Markovic, PhD
1007 W. Harrison Street
My research explores the intersection of identity politics, affect, and post-socialist precarity in the Balkans. I ask how ideas of belonging (and exclusion) are politicized through intense, often collective experiences of affect. My current book project, "Ethnic Affects: Performance Politics and Romani Musical Labor in Serbia," is an outgrowth of my dissertation research project, supported by an Individual Advanced Reseearch Opportunities grant from the International Research Exchanges Board. This work explores how ethnic power relations between Serbs and Roma (“Gypsies”) are produced through the affective labor of professional Romani musicians. I examine how neoliberal transformations in post-socialist Serbia have heightened Romani marginalization vis-à-vis Serbs. Serbs increasingly denigrate Romani musical labor and invoke stereotypes to justify ruptures in Romani-Serb relations amidst rising poverty. Post-Yugoslav nationalism has also reshaped discourses about Romani musical performance, where Romani practices at times allow for safe cultural exoticism—but also increasingly threaten essentialist visions of Serbian cultural purity for nationalists. Although non-Roma often control representations of Romani musical labor, my work also shows how Roma strategically re-deploy affective, aesthetic, and symbolic aspects of musical labor to obtain economic and cultural capital.
My work intervenes in anthropological debates about ethnicity (and identity more broadly) by considering the performative reproduction of inequality. I use theories of affect to explore how otherwise fluid and dynamic identities come to be perceived as social facts, where power relations are naturalized via bodily experiences of intense feeling. Publications on these topics include a 2015 article examining Romani musical strategies for accessing international markets titled “‘So That We Look More Gypsy’: Strategic Performances and Ambivalent Discourses of Romani Brass on the World Music Scene” published in Ethnomusicology Forum, and a 2012 chapter titled “Brass on the Move: Economic Crisis and Professional Mobility among Romani Musicians in Vranje,” concerning the effects of post-socialist economic change on Romani musical livelihoods in Vranje. I have also prepared a digital multimedia exhibit for RomArchive on Romani brass music and culture in southeastern Serbia (in press), as well as several online web publications related to these topics.
International Research Exchanges Board (IREX), Individual Advanced Research Opportunities grant for “Gypsy Fingers Are Unique: Identity Politics and Romani Musical Performance in Vranje Serbia.”, Principal Investigator
University of Illinois Foundation, Graduate Fellowship for the Study of Eastern Europe to support Dissertation writing,
University of Illinois at Chicago, Graduate College, Dean's Scholar Award to Support Dissertation Writing,
(In press) “Romani Brass Bands in Southeast Serbia: An Overview”. For RomArchive, international digital archive of Romani culture and art. https://blog.romarchive.eu
2015 “‘So That We Look More Gypsy’: Strategic Performances and Ambivalent Discourses of Romani Brass for the World Music Scene.” Ethnomusicology Forum 24(2): 260-285.
2012 “Brass on the Move: Economic Crisis and Professional Mobility among Romani Musicians in Vranje.” In Labour Migrations in the Balkans. Biljana Sikimić, Petko Hristov, and Biljana Golubović, eds. Berlin: Verlag Otto Sagner, pp. 49-78.
Service to Community
Public Anthropology (selected presentations and workshops)
- Joint invited lecture on Balkan music & cultural appropriation (with Carol Silverman, Ph.D., University of Oregon). United World College in Las Vegas, NM, February 2-3.
- Workshops on Serbian, Romani, and Balkan dance: United World College in Las Vegas, NM, February 2-3; Raleigh and Durham, NC, March 16-17; Boulder, CO, April 27-28.
- Lecture-Discussion with Romani brass musician Demiran Ćerimović: “Brass Music in Southern Serbia.” August 10. Iroquois Springs Balkan Music and Dance Workshop, Eastern European Folklife Center (EEFC): Rock Hill, NY.
- Workshops on Serbian, Romani, and Balkan dance: EEFC Camp, Mendocino CA, June 24-July 1; EEFC Camp, Rock Hill NY, August 5-12; Oktoberfest Dance Workshops, Fairlee, VT, October 6-9.
- Lecture: “Čoček, Čučeko, Kyuchek: Ottoman Legacies, Contemporary Practices”. June 29. Mendocino Balkan Music and Dance Workshop, Eastern European Folklife Center: Mendocino, CA.
- Lecture: “Romani Dance in Vranje, Serbia: Forms, Style, and Cultural Context”. January 29-31. Madison Folk Ball Annual Workshops. University of Wisconsin: Madison, WI.
- Workshops on Serbian, Romani, and Balkan dance: Madison, WI, January 29-31; EEFC Camp, Mendocino CA, June.
- Lecture: “Ritual Masquerades in the Balkans”. June 27-July 4. Mendocino Balkan Music and Dance Workshop, Eastern European Folklife Center: Mendocino State Park, CA.
- Lecture: “Serb and Romani Dance Culture in Vranje, Serbia: A Comparative Look”. Spring Festival of Balkan Music and Dance. March 23. University of Chicago: Chicago, IL.
- Workshops on Romani and Serb dances from Vranje: University of Chicago, March 22-24; EEFC Camp, Mendocino CA, June 22-29; EEFC Camp, Rock Hill NY, August 10-17.
- Lecture: “Music, Dance, and Ritual among Roma in Vranje, Serbia”. August 15. Iroquois Springs Workshop, Eastern European Folklife Center: Rock Hill, NY.
- Lecture: “Music and Dance in Vranje, Serbia”. April 7. Serbian American Museum-St. Sava: Chicago IL.
2017, Outstanding Dissertation Award, Behavioral and Social Sciences Division, University of Illinois at Chicago
Ph.D., University of Illinois at Chicago, 2017
2018 Crafting Balkan Sounds: Roma & Musical Culture in Southeastern Europe. Balkan music & dance symposium hosted by University of Pittsburgh & Carnegie Mellon University. Pittsburgh, PA. March 23.
2017 Sounding the Nation: Romani Brass and Affective Politics of Belonging in Serbia. American Anthropological Association, Washington D.C. December 3.
2017 Affect Disordered: Romani Musical Labor, Social Intimacy, and Postsocialist Crisis in Vranje, Serbia. Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies, Chicago, IL. November 10.
2017 Music from the [Folk] Wellspring: Regionalism, Nationalism, and the Politics of Heritage in Serbian Folk Music Revivals. Society for Ethnomusicology, Denver, CO. November 10. October 29.
2016 Feeding the [Serbian] Pasha: Affective Labor, Ethnicity, and Performance Politics Among Romani Musicians in Vranje, Serbia. Society for Ethnomusicology, Washington, D.C. November 10.
2015 Beating the Drum to Wake the Bride: Music, Affect, and Memory at Romani Weddings in Vranje, Serbia. Society for Ethnomusicology, Austin, TX. December 5.
2015 Intimate Familiars, Uncivilized Strangers: Roma Between Narratives of Balkan Culture and European Belonging in Vranje, Serbia. American Anthropological Association, Denver, CO. November 20.
2014 Showing the Sheet: Virginity and the Shifting Politics of Gender at Romani Consummation Celebrations in Vranje, Serbia. American Anthropological Association, Washington, D.C. December 7.
Research Currently in Progress
My next project, "Sounding Serbia: Nation-Branding, Citizenship, and Performative Affect After Yugoslavia," explores debates over post-Yugoslav Serbia’s “proper” place within broader European geopolitics via projects of cultural commodification. I ask how branding projects use the affective and aesthetic dimensions of expressive forms, like music and dance, to support emergent Serbian claims for belonging in a cosmopolitan Europe that embraces cultural diversity on the one hand—or to support calls by nationalists for preserving Serbia’s cultural purity and national sovereignty after Yugoslavia on the other. Economic reorientations toward neoliberal capitalism in Serbia eagerly seek transnational foreign investment and increased tourism by creating “authentic” brands for global culture markets. At the same time, the distinctive aesthetics of select “folk” repertoires are often used to invoke visions of a timeless Serbian national identity, stirring patriotic feelings about links between land, tradition, and collective belonging that support renewed calls for a Serbian-centered national life. I ask how these branding and “revival” projects obscure regional and ethnic cultural politics, moreover, mobilizing “exotic” performance genres and aesthetics to facilitate particular reconstructions of citizenship and territory between tropes of European cosmopolitanism and Serbian populist nationalism.