Donna Buchanan

Professor of Musicology
Director, Balkanalia
Acting Director, Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center (REEEC)

Donna BuchananBA (music, modern languages), Beloit College, MM and PhD (ethnomusicology), University of Texas at Austin


A specialist in the musics of Bulgaria, the Balkans, Russia, and the Caucasus (especially Armenia and Georgia), Donna Buchanan’s scholarly interests include acoustemology, performativity, postsocialism, and the implication of music in cosmology, social power, and identity politics. Her first book, Performing Democracy: Bulgarian Music and Musicians in Transition (University of Chicago Press, 2006, with accompanying CD-ROM), documents how the lives and musicianship of professional artists employed by Bulgaria’s top national folkoric ensembles were impacted by a decade of turbulent political change surrounding the demise of Zhivkov’s socialist regime in 1989. The editor of two anthologies, Balkan Popular Music and the Ottoman Ecumene: Music, Image, and Regional Political Discourse (Scarecrow Press, 2007, with accompanying VCD) and Soundscapes from the Americas: Ethnomusicological Essays on the Power, Poetics, and Ontology of Performance (Ashgate, 2014), her articles have appeared in the Anthropology of East Europe Review, Balkanistica, the British Journal of Ethnomusicology, Ethnomusicology, the International Journal of Musicology, and several edited collections.

Buchanan’s scholarship has been funded by fellowships from the American Council for Learned Societies-Social Science Research Council Joint Committee on Eastern Europe, Fulbright-Hays Program, International Research & Exchanges Board, and Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, as well as numerous campus awards. Named a 2017-18 Associate of the UI Center for Advanced Study, she is also the recipient of a 2018-19 NEH fellowship to support the writing of her current book, which explores the gendered, sonic, and spiritual power of bells in Bulgarian belief. Two additional major ongoing projects include an ethnographic study of music, dance, and commemorative heritage among Bulgarian Armenians; and research with Bulgarian female folkoric musicians and ritual practitioners whose artistry breaks with preexisting gender codes.

Buchanan teaches courses on the musical cultures of the Balkans, Russia, and Eurasia; world music; ethnomusicological theory and methodologies; and various selected topics, including music and cosmology, ethnomusicological perspectives on performance and performativity, and postsocialist sounds in the new Europe, among others. One of her greatest joys is directing and performing with Balkanalia, the University of Illinois Balkan Music Ensemble, which she established under the auspices of the School of Music and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center (REEEC) in 1998.

During 2018-19 Buchanan will serve as Acting Director of REEEC, a post that she held previously from 2004-07.


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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