Staging Socialist Femininity

Gender Politics and Folklore Performance in Serbia


Ana Hofman examines the negotiation of the gender performances in Serbian rural areas as a result of the socialist gender policy and creation of the new “femininity” in the public sphere. She focuses on the stage performances of female amateur groups at the Village Gatherings, state-sponsored events held from the 1970s through the mid-1990s in the southeastern Serbian region of Niško Polje. Offering a multifaceted picture of the personal experiences of the socialist ideology of gender equality, Staging Socialist Femininity investigates the complex relationships between personal, interpersonal and political levels in socialism. By showing the interplay between ideology, representational and social practices in the realm of musical performance, it challenges the strong division in scholarly narratives between ideology and practice in socialist societies.
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Biographical Note

Ana R. Hofman, Ph.D. (2007) in Ethnomusicology, is a postdoctoral researcher at the Scientific-Research Centre of Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and Assistant Professor at University of Nova Gorica. Her research intrests include gender politics and music in socialist and postsocialist societies with a particular focus on former Yugoslavia.

Review Quotes

“This concise book elegantly captures the rural “on stage” historical transition from pre- to post-socialist Yugoslavia, and it provides valuable descriptions of the music-making processes in the rural areas concerning female folksingers. Hofman presents the intricate interplay of the personal and the political. Her discussion of ways the women use music to transgress the dichotomies associated with socialism such as official/unofficial, public/private, ideology/practice is one of the study’s great strengths. […] The accompanying CD offers audio examples of older customs that she meticulously analyzed in the text. Audio and video examples of staged performances of folklore groups during the Village Gatherings make the book an excellent resource for classroom instruction.”
Alexandra Balandina in Journal of American Folklore 126 (2013), pp 230-231

“The book is extremely well laid-out and skillfully contrasts the references to the literature, the extracts from public records and the interviews… Shedding light on the fieldwork conducted and archival materials and the narratives in a conceptually and methodologically refreshing manner is the biggest success of Ana Hofman and this publication is recommended to all ethnomusicologists in Serbia as well as to all those who are interested in cultural policies and folk art in the socialist period.”
Marija Dumnić, Institute of Musicology SASA, in New Sound 39, pp. 131-135

"It is refreshing to read a well-written book in English by a young Balkan scholar who not only knows the materials of folklore but has also analyzed them within relevant contemporary theoretical frameworks. Ana Hofman shows her familiarity with issues of gender, power, the state, institutions, and symbolic representations. This scholarship is original and argued well; it will be useful in courses on eastern Europe and classes on folklore, gender, and socialism...In sum, this is a valuable addition to the literature on gender, folklore, and socialism in the Balkans. It presents and analyzes new and exciting materials and contributes to the discussion of the lived experience of women during socialism."
Carol Silverman, University of Oregon in Slavic Review, Vol. 72, No. 1 (

“Ana Hofman’s Staging Socialist Femininity challenges the univocal interpretation of socialism in relation to static binaries associated with the organization of cultural life (such as official/unofficial, formal/informal, central/local, bureaucratic/individual), accentuating instead the dissonances, multivocality, and creativity in personal, performative experiences of socialist cultural policy. This is a well-researched, theoretically grounded, and engagingly narrated study of the performance of socialist femininity, with audio and video examples presented on a CD. It represents a significant contribution to the growing literature on music in socialist states, and will appeal to scholars and students interested in gender studies, cultural policy, socialism, folklore studies, music ethnography, ethnomusicology, and Balkan studies.”
Brana Mijatović in the Yearbook for Traditional Music, Volume 44 (2012), pp 192-194

"Ana Hofman has delivered a valuable study of the community performance practices of rural Serbian women leading up to the mid-1990s. Her efforts will no doubt be of interest to scholarship, as she has documented the disappearing practices of a vanishing generation."
Marnie Pratt (2012), in Popular Music and Society, 35:1, 135-137,

Table of contents

Preface and Acknowledgements
List of Music Examples
List of Audio and Video Examples on CD
List of Photographs
List of Figures
Concepts of Femininity in Rural Serbia
Portraits of the Female Singers
Performing Femininity
Creating the New Folk Culture
The Ambiguity of Cultural Policy
Village Gatherings in the Official Discourses
Village Gatherings in the Personal Narratives
Official Music and Local Taste
Indirect Intervention in the Repertoire
Direct Intervention in the Repertoire
Transgressing Gender Roles?
State Feminism
Gender and Body Politics in Niško Polje
Overstepping the Boundaries
Dangerous Profession
Stage Performance as Performative Negotiation
New Concepts of Identity, Subjectivity and Self-Representation
Appendix 1: List of Villages and Interlocutors


All readers interested in culture in socialist and post-socialist societies, socialist gender and culture politics, traditional music and folklore; experts in Ethnomusicology, Gender Studies, Anthropology, Slavic Studies, History and Balkan Studies.


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