Dissertation Abstracts

Mobilities of Practice:The Circulation of Traditional Music Making Across Mexico and the United States

Author: Miranda, Alejandro , alexomir@gmail.com
Department: Institute for Culture and Society
University: Western Sydney University, Australia
Supervisor: Prof David Rowe
Year of completion: 2015
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Mobilities , Practice , Music , Rhythm
Areas of Research: Body in the Social Sciences , Arts , Senses and Society


Music making, amongst a myriad of cultural practices, is on the move. This phenomenon has been reflected in the increasing interest of scholarly debates on the production and negotiation of meanings in and across social and geographical spaces. The enthusiasm for the analysis of the spatial dimensions of the production of, and engagement with, cultural practices has often overshadowed the consideration of their temporalities and social rhythms. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted in various locations in Mexico and the United States, this thesis advances the analysis of the mobility of cultural practices to examine the circulation of ways of making and experiencing music across communities of practitioners. The notions of mobility, friction and rhythm are used to analyse the reproduction, appropriation and re-creation of musical practices. Key foci are on the production of spatio-temporal arrangements during performances and the dissemination of this practice through multilayered processes of mobility.

This mobile ethnography analyses processes of the making of culture as dynamic interplay between continuity and change. It focuses on the complexities that stem from the enactment of practices in relation to systems of meaning and representation. More specifically, it develops detailed descriptions of how assorted elements are assembled and articulated to put cultural practice in motion. This strategy sharpened my ability to perceive mobilities at various levels and contexts to analyse the circulation of people, artefacts, ideas and information. Therefore, this study gives a detailed account of the relational character of the making of culture, offering a nuanced empirical analysis and theoretical conceptualisation of how practices become simultaneously reproduced and transformed.

The specific case of son jarocho is addressed to explore and discuss mobilities of practice. Son jarocho is a musical practice originated in southeast Mexico and is believed to be a combination of African, Nahua and Spanish-Andaluz traditions. Practitioners have used son jarocho to elaborate discourses of authenticity and preservation of a regional musical heritage; however, it is currently sustained, informed and reshaped by transnational/translocal linkages. Paradoxically, the transformation of various aspects of this practice has been a noticeable outcome of its recuperation and preservation. These changes are traced to concrete ways of improvising, articulating verses and playing musical phrases. I suggest that son jarocho is not confined to a bounded and coherent community or ethnic group, but constitutes a complex practice in which repertoires of bodily gestures, routines and improvisational forms are diffused and circulate across networks of relationships. In researching this cultural practice through mobility, this thesis examines the complex dynamics between cultural continuity and change.