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FA-54864-09
Sufis, Saints, and Their Songs: Sacred Music in Modern Tunisian History, from the Colonial Era to the War on Terror
Richard Jankowsky, Tufts University

Grant details: https://securegrants.neh.gov/publicquery/main.aspx?f=1&gn=FA-54864-09

Ritual Journeys and Devotional Niches: Ambient Sufism in Tunisia (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Ritual Journeys and Devotional Niches: Ambient Sufism in Tunisia
Author: Richard Jankowsky
Abstract: In Tunisia, trance rituals animated by praise songs to Sufi saints are not exclusive to members of Sufi orders or participants in Sufi ceremonies. Rather, a number of distinct healing and devotional musical traditions co-exist, each associated with particular social and devotional communities. In this paper I bring together four such traditions, those of women, Jews, blacks, and hard-drinking laborers, to demonstrate how each of their musical practices serves as a musical, social, and devotional niche while contributing to a larger ecology of Sufi music that also includes the great variety of Sufi rituals as well as staged concerts. More specifically, while the musical “journey” (ri?la) through a chain (silsila) of praise songs is a metaphorical image and organizational scheme that is shared by each of these traditions, the nature of the journey and the different destinations along the way musically mark each one as distinctive and representative of the particular histories and devotional itineraries of each ritual community. This paper emphasizes the important role of women and minorities in cultivating Sufi aesthetics, and shows how Sufism resonates throughout Tunisian society via listening publics associated with numerous genres of music—both “sacred” and “secular”—that evoke the spiritual and therapeutic power of music and trance. Based on ethnographic research between 2009 and 2015, this presentation takes as its starting point the changing politico-religious climate after the Tunisian Revolution of 2011 and the concomitant threats to the survival of musical practices associated with Muslim saints.
Date: 11/11/2016
Conference Name: Society for Ethnomusicology Annual Conference

Ambient Sufism (in Times of Trouble) (Public Lecture or Presentation)
Title: Ambient Sufism (in Times of Trouble)
Abstract: n Tunisia, trance rituals animated by praise songs to Sufi saints are not exclusive to members of Sufi orders or participants in Sufi ceremonies. Rather, a number of distinct healing and devotional musical traditions co-exist, each associated with particular social and devotional communities. In this paper I bring together four such traditions, namely, those of women, the Jewish community, Tunisians of sub-Saharan descent, and hard-drinking laborers, to demonstrate how each of their musical practices serves as a musical, social, and devotional niche while contributing to a larger ecology of Sufi music that also includes the great variety of Sufi rituals as well as staged concerts. More specifically, while the musical “journey” (ri?la) through a chain (silsila) of praise songs is a metaphorical image and organizational scheme that is shared by each of these traditions, the nature of the journey and the different destinations along the way musically mark each one as distinctive and representative of the particular histories and devotional itineraries of each ritual community. Since the rise of Islamism after the Tunisian Revolution of 2011, these communities have come under serious threat and musicians, participants, and performance sites have been threatened and attacked. This paper, then, also discusses how this project has become an example of "ethnomusicology in times of trouble" (Rice 2014).
Author: Richard Jankowsky
Date: 04/15/2016
Location: University of California, Berkeley


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