Contests of devotion in Nepal: music and civic rivalry in the Buddhist communitas

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Through musical pilgrimage in Nepal, diverse groups come together at sacred Buddhist centres, unified, at one level, by an infectious sense of devotional fervour and shared purpose: a spirit of universal community that Victor Turner would term the communitas of pilgrimage. Yet division and competition are also legible within the sharply contrasting timbres and dissonant instrument tunings of groups from different neighbourhoods. Competition, largely unspoken, takes the form of challenging or invalidating the devotional logics of competitor music groups in favour of one’s own neighbourhood community. Pilgrimage involves construction of sacred communities at universal and local levels at once; consequently, there is slippage between goals of universal communitas and unspoken community rivalries. Heretofore understudied musical evidence suggests that competition does not invalidate the pilgrimage process, or suggest that communitas is not a genuine goal, but it does suggest that this is not the pilgrims’ only goal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)184-199
Number of pages16
JournalEthnomusicology Forum
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 4 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology
  • Music


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