The Musical Precipitation Of Spirits, Saints, And Selves: Ritual, Music, And Trance In Algerian Popular Islam

Evening class

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Tamara Turner

The Musical Precipitation Of Spirits, Saints, And Selves: Ritual, Music, And Trance In Algerian Popular Islam

Tuesday, July 4, 2017 - 18:45

Algerian diwan is a Sufi-inspired music ritual tradition that coalesced out of the trans-Saharan slave trade with the displacement of sub-Saharan populations in Algeria, particularly Hausa, Bambara, and Songhay ethnolinguistic groups. Under three centuries of Ottoman rule, sub-Saharan communities were heavily influenced by the local, popular religious practices and socio-political organization of Sufi brotherhoods. Consequently, diwan developed into a syncretic Afro-Maghrebi ritual practice drawing from what are often labeled 'pre-Islamic, animist, magical' ritual practices of 'black Africa' (bīlād es-sūdān) while absorbing many of the same structures of other musical traditions within popular Islam rooted in North Africa: saint veneration, trance, and ritual healing. In diwan rituals, music precipitates and structures emotional trance and spirit possession trance by 'heating' the energy ('ḥāl') of the ritual in order to 'call' the spirits to possess the bodies of hosts. My ethnographic approach arises out of this fundamental, local concept of ḥāl: a collective, affectively attuned, and nuanced social field without which trance of any kind is impossible. By fleshing out the sensorial phenomena of ḥāl and its local narrative, I examine the role of musico-ritual aesthetics to attend to physical, mental, and emotional needs of diwan adepts and to provide the means for spirits and saints to be reconciled with multiple aspects of the self and the diwan community at large.

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Our evening talks include discussion, are free and open to all.

Next evening class

Morna Finnegan

Communism In Motion: How Hunter Gatherers Make Egalitarianism Work
Tuesday, December 19, 2017 - 18:45
Daryll Forde Seminar Room, Anthropology Building, 14 Taviton Street, London WC1H 0BW. Tube: Euston Square. map

Drawing on her fieldwork with the Bayaka forest hunter-gatherers of the Congo Basin, Morna explains how women take the initiative in regular riotous yet playful rituals to make sure that men behave. She calls this 'communism in motion' because gender egalitarianism is never a fixed or settled state but has to be constantly nurtured and established anew. Morna's feminist message is politically uncompromising. One not to be missed!