In Search for Collective Identity. the Production of Estonianness By Means of Choral Singing in Contemporary Estonia

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 10:45 AM
Room: 512
Oral Presentation
Emilia PAWLUSZ , Institute of Political Science and Governance, Tallinn University, Tallinn, Estonia
This presentation explores the role singing and performance of national song plays on the (re)-

production of Estonian national identity (Estonianness).

Starting from the revitalization of the ethnic-civic debate (Brubaker 1996) in Eastern Europe, most

scholars have assessed Estonian nation-building as being prevalently ethnic (Laitin 1998, Mole 2012).

In particular, choral singing tradition that has long relied on a vocabulary of historicism is interpreted

through the prism of nationalism (Bohlman 2011). This paper initiates a critique to the above

approach by introducing three new dimensions: globalization, Europeanization, and multiculturalism.

Informed from a structuralist constructivism (Bourdieu 1989) it combines analysis of social structures

and institutions with perceptions of individual social actors. The main focus is on power relations

incorporated into singing as a tool for identity production. In particular, it will be explored how the

singing tradition responds to identity tensions between 'ethnic Estonians' and 'non-Estonians', namely

Russian speakers who constitute 26% of the population (census 2013).

Considering singing tradition (1) in a network of social spaces – national and supranational, as well

as (2) from the joint perspective of individual experiences and objective structures such as the state,

allowing us to examine collective identity building mechanisms in post-socialist context in a nuanced

and less deterministic way.