In Praise Of Lying: Self Deception Can Be A Matter Of Survival

Evening class

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Volker Sommer

In Praise Of Lying: Self Deception Can Be A Matter Of Survival

Tuesday, February 28, 2017 - 18:45

Volker Sommer, Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology in the University of London, will talk about the necessity of lying. His recent book, In Praise of Lying, stresses the fact that all of us must sometimes lie in order to survive. Where social dynamics are highly competitive, as they among monkeys and apes, fluency in deception is is a matter of life and death. Deceptive body language, such as feints that mislead as to the intended direction of attack or flight, is observed in many animal species including wolves.

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Evening class information

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

Next evening class

Tamara Turner

The Musical Precipitation Of Spirits, Saints, And Selves: Ritual, Music, And Trance In Algerian Popular Islam
Tuesday, July 4, 2017 - 18:45
Daryll Forde Seminar Room, Anthropology Building, 14 Taviton Street, London WC1H 0BW. Tube: Euston Square. map

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.