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A Cult of Anonymity in the Age of Copyright: Authorship, Ownership, and Cultural Policy in Turkey’s Folk Music Industry


This dissertation concerns two interrelated areas of cultural policy in Turkey: the curation of an official broadcast repertoire of folk music at the state broadcasting agency (TRT) and the administration of musical copyright. Two contrasting ideas, anonymity and authorship, undergird these cultural policy regimes. The curators of the TRT repertoire espoused a theory of anonymous creation that allowed them to claim folklore for the nation. Meanwhile, works protected under intellectual property (IP) law are understood to have arisen in accordance with a particular idea of authorship. I draw on ethnographic and archival data to document the lively debates over the policies motivated by the ideas of anonymity and authorship. I show how these concepts are ideological in nature, clashing with some actors’ lived experience of creativity and alternative conceptions of ownership, particularly when copyright meets the folk music genre, and particularly when there are perceived financial rewards at stake. While many scholars have deconstructed the “author” and “work” concepts that underlie copyright law, I show how assumptions about the traditionality, anonymity, or collectiveness of cultural products understood to reside in the public domain may also reflect ideological constructs developed at official institutions. I furthermore approach both folklore ideology and IP law as global phenomena with many local instantiations around the world. I ask: how did these phenomena develop the specific form that they have in Turkey? I trace how Turkey’s dominant theory of folkloric creation seems derived from one strain of thought in international folkloristics that has been inflected to suit local musical traditions and to more effectively promote national culture. In my parallel account of IP law’s local instantiation and especially the reform of the system for administering copyright since the 1980s, I ethnographically attend to actors’ lived experience of the system and account for some of its idiosyncracies vis-à-vis practice in other countries. I argue that music industry actors have tended to view the development of copyright through common frames for thinking about Turkish society, including occidentalist and anti-imperialist frames; this tendency substantially shaped the form that the copyright regime took in Turkey.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Brown University, 2017

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Fossum, David, "A Cult of Anonymity in the Age of Copyright: Authorship, Ownership, and Cultural Policy in Turkey’s Folk Music Industry" (2017). Music Theses and Dissertations. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.