The dissertation investigates the impact of expressive media on group interaction and identity in Eastern Turkey. The introductory chapter gives background information on the province of Erzurum, where research was conducted in 1988-89, and discusses qualitative methods used in obtaining data.
Chapter two gives an historical overview of the tradition of the ashik in Erzurum province. These are poet/musicians who perform widely in the area. It is argued that improvisation among ashiks serves both as a symbol of regional identity, and as a way of expressing social values in performances. Through impression management, ashiks consciously re-create atmospheres that enhance their images as inspired performers.
Chapter three looks at processes of group solidarity and differentiation prevalent in the ashik milieu. Several cases analyse the relationship of identities to value standards, and how people apply these standards in boundary maintenance.
The fourth chapter, «Media and Markets«, describes the changes and innovations that have occurred in performance contexts over the last generation, and the extent that ashiks have adapted to and become integrated into various aspects of a growing music industry. The discussion goes into various strategies for capitalising on the possibilities that better communication and transport networks have brought. This is compared to how power structures function to control an ashiks access to different media, as well at how ashiks discuss these problems among themselves.
Political action is the theme of chapter five. Specifically, we look at nationalist discourse on the level of interaction - in cafes where people express and defend their loyalties. «Turkishness« in various forms is discussed. In both differentiating ones own group from others and in legitimating actions, the emblem of «tradition« is claimed, challenged and fought over.
The concluding chapter, «Rules and interpretations«, questions social scientific dichotomies of tradition/modernity, suggesting that anthropology is best served by focusing on generative aspects of tradition; on the ways that actors use the past to influence and understand the present.