Lena Dražić

Viennese Neighbourhoods, Invented Traditions, and the Global Village. (Post-) Yugoslav Neofolk as a Stimulus for Belongings and Identities


In today’s Vienna, neofolk music from the former Yugoslavia serves as a point of crystallisation for various belongings – belongings which are ambiguous and in part contradictory. In 2021, I investigated interactions with different variants of (post)- Yugoslav neofolk in Vienna, focusing on the meanings ascribed to the music by its listeners.

Most prominently, my research partners expressed their belonging with other migrants from the former Yugoslav region. In contrast to this ‘Yugonostalgic’ sense of togetherness, the affiliation with a specific ethnic group still seemed to matter to some listeners of neofolk. Yet on another level, my interlocutors also expressed ties to their Austrian place of residence – be it a particular neighbourhood, the city of Vienna, or Austrian society at large; thereby mirroring the various geographical scales on which an individual can feel ‘at home’ (Antonsich 2010, 646). At the same time, this belonging to Austrian society was counter-balanced by a sense of non-belonging, as listeners claimed to feel like outsiders in clubs playing anglophone pop music, while feeling at ease in places that featured music from the former Yugoslavia. In parallel to the more recent manifestations of neofolk which combine 1990s’ turbo-folk tunes with elements of trap music, younger listeners also exhibit a belonging to a globalised popular culture, as embodied by US-American rap musicians and hip-hop culture.

These various belongings are created in interaction with the music, which was described by my interlocutors as the lowest common denominator uniting all ethnic groups from the former Yugoslavia in Vienna, while simultaneously spurring narratives of ethno-nationalism. Complementary to the concept of ‘belonging’, the construction of a collective identity evolved as an important category in my research – an ‘imagined community’ (Anderson 2006) serving both as a source of comfort to its members, and a delimitation towards mainstream society.


Lena Dražić studied musicology and philosophy at the University of Vienna. She concluded her PhD on the political implications of the discourse on ›new music‹ at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna (mdw), where she also participated in the project Changing mdw on occasion of the 200-year anniversary of the university. In 2021, she conducted a project on the attributions of meaning to popular forms of post-Yugoslav neofolk in Vienna, which was subsidised by the Vienna city council. In 2022, she was awarded the Austrian Academy of Sciences ›Post-docTrack‹ scholarship. From March to June 2023, she was a Research Fellow at the International Research Center for Cultural Studies (IFK) in Vienna. Lena Dražić has worked as a music journalist for Der Standard, Wiener Zeitung, Falter – Stadtzeitung Wien, Österreichische Musikzeitschrift, mica – music austria, Giornale della musica, skug, and Opernwelt, among others.