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date: 30 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter uses Hindustani music as a case study, developing anthropology’s theoretical work on value and exchange toward the analysis of music. It focuses on the action-based theory of value devised by Nancy Munn (1986) and later developed by David Graeber (2001). Rather than something residing “in the music,” value is viewed as entirely social, and ephemeral, generated by acts and the codification of acts into distinctive patterned aesthetic forms. The chapter refines the analysis through Annette Weiner’s concept of “inalienable possessions,” that is, things which are not necessarily costly or of any objective value, but have gained immeasurable and irreplaceable value to particular groups in particular times and places through “keeping while giving,” and which inscribe lineage, heredity, and history. This enables an exploration of how history and transmission operate in value creation in the context of music and performing arts. The chapter also develops theoretical work on exchange to analyze musical performance, where what is “given” or “received” is intangible and highly subjective, making it particularly unpredictable in its value and with potential for immense excess and thereby implications for obligations, attachments, or even devotion. Thus, the chapter explores how the complex web of behaviors, discourse, knowledge, and skills variously continued, adapted, and discontinued from the past, and with new strands woven in, constantly re-create Hindustani music as an inalienable possession for middle-class audiences, for whom basic templates of value are in many ways radically opposed to those of the original patrons and performers.

Keywords: Hindustani music, value, exchange, inalienable possessions, heritage, inheritance, economic, ethnomusicology

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