Head of the Organising Committee
Sanna Turoma
sanna.turoma [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Coordinator
Kaarina Aitamurto
kaarina.aitamurto [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Secretary
Maarit Elo-Valente
maarit.elo-valente [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Intern
Miikka Piiroinen
miikka.piiroinen [at] helsinki.fi

Conference e-mail:
fcree-aleksconf [at] helsinki.fi

The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki
phone +358-(0)50-3565 802

aleksanteri [at] helsinki.fi


Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Stephen Amico (The Grieg Academy / University of Bergen, Norway)

The Russian Madonna?: Valeriia, Polyphonic Bodies, and Russian Expressive Culture in Global Context

Awarded in 2005 the title of Zasluzhennaia Artistka Rossiiskoi Federatsii, singer Valeriia (stage name of Alla Perfilova) is not only a successful, multi-million selling performer, but also an accomplished businesswoman. Named by Forbes magazine as one of the most highly paid performers in Russia, she is, for example, the force behind a chain of Moscow-based health clubs (Ladies [sic] Fitness), and the co-owner (with husband Iosif Prigozin) of luxury properties in both Europe and the UAE. She has, moreover, attempted at various times in her career, to translate her successes as a singer in Russia to the Western market – where she has been referred to as "the Russian Madonna" – and her recordings comprise styles and genres from romans to rock, narodnaia to eurodisco, popsa to jazz. But although Valeriia may appear at various times in her career – including at the level of musical style – to be one of the more internationally oriented performers in Russia, indeed one who linked her (arguably western-style) revelations about her status as a victim of domestic abuse to her role of goodwill ambassador for the inter-governmental International Organization for Migration (IOM), she has also recently appeared in a relatively high-profile interview on the BBC, supporting the government's anti-"gay propaganda" legislation, and has been barred from entering Latvia due to her support of Russia's annexation of Crimea.

In this paper, I approach Valeriia as a literal embodiment of the often ostensibly "conflicting" products and practices typifying contemporary cultural globalization – Valeriia as both capitalist and patriot, as international and "rodnaia" artist (both "chuzhaia" and "nasha"). I argue that specific attention to mass-mediated and truly popular musics as music (and not [only] texts or discourses) offers an inroad to theorizing the ways in which the putatively incompatible Russian/Western influences and positions she exhibits and occupies need not, indeed cannot, be analyzed as "disonnances." With attention to affect theory (Berlant; Massumi), Orthodox philosophy (Florenskii), and cultural analysis (Yurchak; Pilkington); via engagement of the musical concept of polyphony (and its appropriation by both Bakhtin and Said); and through analyses of representative videos and songs of Valeriia, I will posit the concept of the "polyphonic body" to elucidate the necessity of attention to Russia's popular music as corporeal practice – by both performer and listener/spectator – in attempting to theorize the role of "indigenous" expressive culture in a global context.