University of Cambridge > > CRASSH > Jaroslav and the Taste for Folkloric Performances in Socialist Mongolia: an Ideal–Type Inspired from Fictional Literature

Jaroslav and the Taste for Folkloric Performances in Socialist Mongolia: an Ideal–Type Inspired from Fictional Literature

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Dr. Laurent Legrain (Social Anthropology) presents at the CRASSH Postdoctoral Research Seminar



How could a novel be of any help to rethink the folklorization process that was launched in socialist Mongolia in the late 1950s? Jaroslav, one of the main characters in Milan Kundera’s novel The Joke, can be considered an ideal–type of the actions of the socialist cultural activists, who had been involved, for more than forty years, in the molding of new musical repertories as well as in the implementation of new ways of enjoying songs and musical performances. As such this ideal–type paves the way for the construction of an analytical approach to the attachment that people deeply felt, and still feel, to folkloric songs. This attitude towards music is in sharp contrast with the most common evaluation of representatives from international art institutions, who see in this taste for “folklore” a sadly enduring legacy of the Soviet cultural policies, a kind of deep aesthetical rut in which Mongolian rural people find themselves trapped. I will also address some epistemological problems that inevitably arise when social scientists borrow material from fictional literature to pursue their own agendas.

About Laurent Legrain

Laurent Legrain is a social anthropologist whose areas of research cover the field of the anthropology of art as well as issues related to cultural transmission. He joined the Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit of the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge in the beginning of this year as a Wiener-Anspach Foundation’s Fellow. His postdoctoral project (2012-2016) focuses on the role played by the emotional attachment to objects and practices in cultural transmission.

This talk is part of the CRASSH series.

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