Mojca Piškor

Music, Sound and the (Im)Possibilities of Belonging on the Balkan Route


This paper presents an attempt at thinking about the ways in which music, sound, and sonic agency participate in the negotiation of the shifting and often impenetrable boundaries of belonging shaping the lives of the people on the move along the so-called Balkan migratory route. After the official disintegration of the Balkan Refugee Corridor in March 2016, continued fortification of borders – epitomised in proliferation of border walls, razor wires, surveillance technologies and increasingly more violent and cruel border regimes – transformed perceived linearity of migrant trajectories into hypermobility in circulation between and across closely guarded borders and territories outlining the periphery of the European Union. Continuous illegalization of the people on the move inevitably led to further precarization of their position and consequently translated into invisibilization of practices and silencing of experiences of border crossing effectively making them not knowable to those not forced to clandestinely move across multiple borders. In common understanding of migration as linear movement of people between countries of origin and countries of destination, the Balkan territories are often perceived primarily as spaces of transit. Such understanding effectively obscures experiences of prolonged strandedness and at times potentially indefinite forced waiting, as well as makes both music and sense of belonging seem like matters-out-of-place. Drawing on insights gained through ethnographic research on contemporary border regimes and their impact on lives lived and lost while crossing clandestinely through the European periphery, the author will try to underline the instances in which sound, music, and sonic agency play a role in disrupting (and at times reinforcing) the boundaries separating those deemed "deserving" from those deemed “undeserving” to belong.


Mojca Piškor earned her PhD in ethnology and cultural anthropology at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb with the thesis Politics and Poetics of Spaces of Music: Ethnomusicological and Anthropological Perspectives (2010). Since 2001, she has been affiliated with the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research in Zagreb. Since 2013, she is permanently employed as an Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology at the Musicology Department of the Academy of Music in Zagreb. Her field of interest includes issues pertaining to the nexus of music, sound, and politics (racial imagination, gender, migration) and intersections of music and discourse on music. In the recent years, she focused her research interests on role of music and sound in torture regimes of political labour and concentration camps (Islands of Sv. Grgur and Goli; Jasenovac). Since 2020, she is participating in the international research project The European Irregularized Migration Regime in the Periphery of the EU (ERIM).