The Girl in the Bell: Gender, Power, and Cosmologies Ensounded in Bulgaria


Summer Institute for the Study of East Central and Southeastern Europe




This project will focus on preparing the last chapter—Belled Battalions: Mumming Masquerades in Transition—of an ethnomusicological monograph, “The Girl in the Bell: Cosmologies Ensounded in Bulgaria.” Informed by ethnographic research with musicians, instrument craftsmen, and ritual practitioners from 2010 to 2020, this study explores how the gendered “voices” of pastoral (herding) and ritual (church and mumming) bells make audible certain beliefs about nature, the universe, spirituality, and heritage. The project documents how these bells are made, conceptualized, and played; how they are heard and valued; and, their gendered associations and role in devotional and musical practice. “Belled Battalions” compares mumming troupes from across the country, showing how they assert local subjectivities through differentiated costumes, bell types, timbral aesthetics, choreographed ringing techniques, and musical accompaniment. This analysis elucidates key facets of Bulgaria’s ongoing spiritual revival, namely music’s capacity to effect national-sacred power in postsocialist states.