Performing Ethnic Personhood in Contemporary Khakassia: Academics and Musicians

in Inner Asia
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Abstract

This paper looks at how ethnicity as an aspect of personhood is ‘performed’ among academics and musicians in the contemporary southern Siberian Republic of Khakassia, which is a member of the Russian Federation. It gives a nineteenth-century assessment of musical ethnicity among the Abakan Tatars (i.e. Kachins, Sagais, Bel’tirs, Kyzyls and Koibals), describes the introduction during the Soviet period of the ethnonym ‘Khakas’ through the academic arena, and outlines the controversy that still rages in overlapping academic and musical circles over this and its contemporary divisions. Finally, the paper points to the recent move by musicians to contest their official ‘Khakas’ identities by copying onto their instruments ancient Okunev art from standing stones that litter their steppes, and to reaffirm their Sagai, Khaas and Kyzyl ethnicities by reinstating the traditional inheritance of epic performance among these groups and by differentiating between their musical styles.

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