The social life of musical instruments

Eliot Bates

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63 Citations (Scopus)
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While ethnomusicologists often write about musical instruments and engage with social theories, these two predilections are typically distinct, and rarely are instruments theorized let alone considered in social terms. Drawing on recent work in Science and Technology Studies, I argue for a study of the social where musical objects (including instruments) and people are actors within patterned heterogeneous networks. I begin with literary examples of instruments framed as having agency, then move to the treatment of instrument-agency within organology. As an exemplar for this methodology, I consider the social life of the saz, an ubiquitous lute from Turkey.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-395
Number of pages33
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • science and technology studies
  • Turkey
  • Middle Eastern studies
  • Alevism
  • nationalism
  • organology
  • music technologies


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