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Title: The labour of love songs : voicing intimacy in Somaliland
Author: Woolner, Christina
ISNI:       0000 0004 7654 0513
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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This dissertation is about the work of love songs in Hargeysa, Somaliland. In a setting where music and expressions of love are conspicuously absent from public soundscapes, I explore the lives and labour of a genre as it moves and is moved across time and space, the singing and speaking voices that animate these songs, and the entanglement of love songs in the mediation of intimacy and the shaping of contested post-war soundscapes. What, I ask, is a love song? In a setting marked by war, where music-making and expressions of love are contested, what do love songs do? And how do they do what they do? In answering these questions, I take love songs in motion as my primary ethnographic object and investigate the "labour" of love songs in two senses: the intimate human labour by which love songs are made, circulated, heard, performed and put to assorted uses, and the social-aesthetic-affective labour that a genre itself performs. Based on eighteen months of field-research with poets, musicians, singers, music-lovers and love-suffering audiences in Hargeysa, I track love songs through various stages of their multi-faceted lives: as they first come into the world through the collaboration of a poet and his muse, a musician and a singer; as they circulate and are re-animated alongside stories of singers and stories of encounters; as they are re-figured by the ears and voices of attentive listeners; as their sounding is learned by musicians; and as their live performance is negotiated and received in contested urban terrain. I show the primary labour of love songs to be the distillation, performance and creation of intimate social relations: intimate relations predicated on "dareen-wadaag" ("feeling-sharing") that transcend everyday cleavages and prohibitions, and that have the power to shape both individuals' personal intimate lives and the socio-political worlds in which songs move and do their work. I argue that love songs' ability to distill and open space for intimacy rests on an ideology of voice that figures the voice as a deeply personal mode of self-expression and the simultaneously multi-vocal practices of voicing by which love songs are animated. In other words, the "voice" is made - and made intimate - by its multi-faceted multi-vocal sociality. In so doing, this dissertation contributes to understandings of the workings and power of popular culture in Africa and beyond, recent anthropological efforts to hold together the sonic and social dynamics of the "voice", and broader anthropological conversations about the mediated, multi-vocal making of persons and social worlds.
Supervisor: Englund, Harri Sponsor: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (Canada) ; Cambridge International Trust (Smuts Memorial Fund)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Somaliland ; love songs ; anthropology of popular culture ; Somali oral poetry ; anthropology of texts ; voice ; intimacy ; social anthropology ; ethnomusicology ; popular song