Sounds of the Borderland is the first book-length study of how popular music became a medium for political communication and contested identification during and after Croatia's war of independence from Yugoslavia. It extends existing cultural studies literature on music, politics and the state, which has largely been grounded in Western European and North American political systems. It also responds to an emerging fascination with the culture and politics of contemporary south-east Europe, expanding scholarship on the post-Yugoslav conflicts by going on to encompass significant social and political changes into the present day. The outbreak of war in 1991 saw almost every professional musician in Croatia take part in a wave of patriotic music-making and the powerful state television system strive to bring popular music under its control. As the political imperative shifted from securing national survival to consolidating a homogenous nation-state, the music industry responded with several strategies for creating a national popular music, producing messages about the nation and, in the ongoing debates over the origins of the folk music that inspired many songs, a way to define the nation by expressing what Croatia was not. The war on ethnic ambiguity which cut through individuals' social and creative lives played out across the airwaves, sales racks and gossip columns of a small country that imagined itself a historical and cultural borderland. These explicit and implicit narratives of nationhood connect many political phases: the months of fiercest fighting, the stabilised front, the uneasy post-war years when the symbolic frontline region of eastern Slavonia had still not returned to Croatian sovereignty, the euphoria and instability after the end of the Tudjman regime in 2000, and Croatia's fraught journey towards the European Union. Baker's book provides valuable insight into the role of music in a wartime and post-conflict society and will be essential reading for researchers and students interested in south-east Europe or the transformation of entertainment during and after conflict.
Prize: Awarded the BASEES George Blazyca Prize for 2012 'An exhaustive, vividly documented account of the political utility of popular music in Croatia during and after the Homeland War… Rich in documentary details and interpretive conclusions.' Slavic Review ’Baker’s book is a significant contribution to the literature on the former Yugoslavia and its collapse.’ Europe-Asia Studies 'Sounds of the Borderland is an excellent read that skilfully demonstrates the interaction between everyday popular culture and national identity. It is without a doubt a book that future researchers in the field will value.' Slovo