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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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Martin Holbraad's main field research is in Cuba, where he focuses on Afro-Cuban religions and revolutionary politics. Having completed in 2002 his doctoral thesis on the role of oracles and money within the diviner cult of Ifà in socialist Cuba, his research since has focused on such topics as the relationship between myth and action, the consecration of objects, and, more broadly, the relationship between cosmology, politics and other forms of social invention.