Catherine Baker wins the George Blazyca Prize for Sounds of the Borderland

Congratulations to Catherine Baker, whose book Sounds of the Borderland: Popular Music, War and Nationalism in Croatia since 1991 has won the George Blazyca Prize.

The British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies (BASEES) established the George Blazyca Prize in East European Studies in recognition of the outstanding contribution to its field of study made by the late George Blazyca, and the prize is presented at the BASEES annual conference.

From the BASEES website:

Catherine Baker’s work is exceptional in both its originality and its careful research, and in its readability: it is unusual for a scholarly and thoroughly-researched work to be able to engage a broad academic audience without regard for discipline and area specialism.   Karen Henderson and Geoffrey Swain

Read the full commentary from the judges on the BASEES website

Sounds of the Borderland is the first book-length study of how popular music became a medium for political communication and contested identification during and after Croatia’s war of independence from Yugoslavia. It extends existing cultural studies literature on music, politics and the state, which has largely been grounded in Western European and North American political systems. It also responds to an emerging fascination with the culture and politics of contemporary south-east Europe, expanding scholarship on the post-Yugoslav conflicts by going on to encompass significant social and political changes into the present day.

The outbreak of war in 1991 saw almost every professional musician in Croatia take part in a wave of patriotic music-making and the powerful state television system strive to bring popular music under its control. As the political imperative shifted from securing national survival to consolidating a homogenous nation-state, the music industry responded with several strategies for creating a national popular music, producing messages about the nation and, in the ongoing debates over the origins of the folk music that inspired many songs, a way to define the nation by expressing what Croatia was not. The war on ethnic ambiguity which cut through individuals’ social and creative lives played out across the airwaves, sales racks and gossip columns of a small country that imagined itself a historical and cultural borderland.

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