Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Peter Manuel

Committee Members

Eliot Bates

Julie Skurski

Ludim Pedroza

Subject Categories

Ethnomusicology | Latin American Studies | Music Education | Music Pedagogy | Social and Cultural Anthropology


Venezuela, llanos, musica llanera, joropo, orchestra, space


This dissertation argues that the process of institutionalizing traditional música llanera (plains region music) education in Venezuela is informed by a hierarchical spatialization of the capital, Caracas, and the historically agricultural- and livestock-producing region known as the llanos, or the plains. Drawing on Lefebvre’s The Production of Space (1991), I argue that the representations of space that have defined the llanos region and música llanera often obscure the lived space of music-making and dwelling in the llanos. This dissertation is based on fieldwork in Guárico state between 2016-2018, where I observed the state-funded Alma Llanera program, which had been recently added to Venezuela’s famed national system of orchestral music education, El Sistema. Many critiques of the institutionalization of traditional musics draw on theories of race and coloniality developed in the academy of the Global North. Instead, my ethnography demonstrates that the production of local spatial categories is more salient for understanding how música llanera is practiced in these programs. I demonstrate that the formation of the llanos as a periphery and as a racialized “natural” region to be preserved for nationalism informs how Venezuelans outside the llanos conceive música llanera. This conceptualization is distinct from how música llanera is defined, valued, and performed in the llanos, which in turn informs Alma Llanera’s pedagogical practices of orchestration, use of music notation, and extra-musical technique. I argue that these practices evidence local concepts of justice which include access to state oil wealth, granting authorship to musicians, and promoting self-sufficiency in daily llanos life.

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