Vít Zdrálek

Mgr. Vít Zdrálek, Ph.D.

  • (Agenda) - Institute of Musicology
Consulting hours
  • LS 2020: Středa 14-15, Čtvrtek 14-15

Institute of Musicology
Místnost č. 404

Research interests

  • Ethnomusicology
  • South African popular and religious musical culture
  • Cultural study of music


2015, Ph.D., Musicology, Charles University

2005-2006, international exchange student, University of Pretoria

2004, Mgr., Music Education and History, University of Hradec Králové

Dissertation research

In my PhD thesis Mapping the Individual Musical Experience in Post-Apartheid South Africa: A Bio-Ethnography of Township Dweller Lesiba Samuel Kadiaka (2015) I explored the possibilities of combining ethnography and biography in writing about South African music, a field with a long history of structuring scholarly approaches along lines of firmly conceived cultural and social identities. I tried to offer a fresh view by ‘writing across’ boundaries and demonstrate a potential model for bio-ethnography. My subject was a middle-aged male Mamelodi township dweller, a musician and a member of the Zion Christian Church (ZCC), the largest ‘African initiated’ indigenous church in South Africa. Assuming a perspective of the theory of practice, I examined how he had negotiated his cultural and social position throughout his life and I mapped his individual musical experience onto the wider cultural and social experience of being a poor person living in a township between apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa. By transgressing the ready-made categories of cultural and social identity in South African (music) research my interlocutor’s example proved the sustainability of complex musical practice and meaning production as well as the complex construction of individual subjectivity, even in such a deterritorialized, fragmenting and collapsing world as modern South Africa.

The ethnography was based on over 12 months of fieldwork conducted in five periods between 2006 and 2011. The text drew on semi-structured and unstructured interviews, song texts and participant observations of Kadiaka’s various musical activities, which included composition, accordion playing and performing his own topical and religious songs, most notably on commuter trains but also at other private and public events related to ZCC rituals. Overlaps and (dis)continuities between seemingly separate worlds were carefully examined in order to deconstruct the above mentioned cultural binaries and methodological dichotomies. Close attention was paid to ZCC musical repertories and their meanings, and Samuel’s own private collection of photographs from the 1980s and 90s became a valuable source of information, offering a unique reflection on his personal, historical and social trajectory. The text was written as a reflexive ethnography in which I interrogated my own position as a Czech subject in a ‘foreign’ culture and revealed the intimacy of the relationship between researcher and researched as well as the non-linear, complex process of acquiring ethnographic knowledge.

Other current research

Since 2017, I have been an external member of the research team in the three-year long project Weight and Weightlessness of the Folklore: The Folklore Movement of the Second Half of the 20th Century in the Czech Lands (grant by The Czech Science Foundation 17-26672S) hosted by The Czech Academy of Sciences and lead by Daniela Stavělová.


2016, Bolzano Award of the Charles University for the best dissertation in humanities and social sciences.

Recent conferences

2018, „The dangerous supplement that takes-(the)-place: Derridean reading of the ’folklore movement’ in the Czech Republic“, BFE Annual Conference, University of Newcastle.

2017, “We all know that, don’t we?” Situating the scholarly knowledge about the Czech ‘folk music movement’ (preliminary thoughts), International Symposium Folklore Revival Movement of the Second Half of the 20th Century, Academy of Performing Arts, Prague.

2017, Filling the Void of Post-Apartheid: Miracles of the Zion Christian Church in the Life of South African Township Dweller, 7th European Conference on African Studies, ECAS7, University of Basel.

2017, What is in a Song? Performing Subjectivity and Performing the Nation in a South African Township, BFE Annual Conference, University of Sheffield.

2016, Ambiguity as an Ethnographic Condition: Between the Post-Apartheid Field and Czech Academia, 4th Biennial Conference of the Czech Association for Social Anthropology, Charles University, Prague.

2016, Writing against Culture in South African Township: Bio-Ethnography of an Average Musician, South African Society for Research in Music Annual Conference, University of Bloemfontein, South Africa.

2016, Practicing Bio-Ethnography in South African Township: Prospects and Predicaments of the Ethnographic Method, BFE Annual Conference, University of Kent.

Academic membership

SEM, BFE, CASA, CAAS (exco member)

Current teaching

Since 2012, I and my colleague Tereza Havelková have taught the bachelor’s and master’s research seminar combining perspectives of cultural analysis and ethnomusicology in the study of music.



See the Charles University database (Verso)

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