Deborah Kapchan

Session 5, Saturday 14th, 9:00-10:30 am
Session 8, Saturday 14th, 3:20-4:50 pm
Location: University of Alberta, Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science, Room 1-140

The Sound Body: Creating a Sufi Residence on Earth



Is place defined by legal parameters or by the inhabitants who dwell there? By the names we give it, or by the use we make of it? By maps or by the vibrations imminent in place itself? Deleuze and Guattari assert that territory is created against chaos by refrains – rhythms that mark spaces of belonging. They use the example of bird song to illustrate this: “the bird sings to mark its territory,” they assert. Indeed, a sense of belonging is often created through music, which has an intimate relation with the body and with place. In this paper I explore how Sufi Muslims in France create a home, an abode, in the France through sacred song and chant. How does a sacred aesthetic come to inhabit this home in a country that is often so vehemently secular that historian Benbassa characterizes it as laicité integriste, fundamentalist secularism? And what is the role of music and what I call “listening acts” in this project? Based on several years of continuous fieldwork with Qadirriyya Sufis in Morocco and in diaspora since 1994, in this presentation I delineate how Sufis create a sense of belonging in France by engaging what I call the “sound body” – a body with multiple rhythms and orientations. If sound is vibration, and vibration is territory, then the sound bodies of Sufis in France re-orient space and place through their aesthetic practice. Keywords: sound, body, orientation, place, home.



Deborah Kapchan is Associate Professor of Performance Studies at New York University. A Guggenheim fellow, she is the author of Gender on the Market: Moroccan Women and the Revoicing of Tradition (Univ. of Pennsylvania Press 1996), Traveling Spirit Masters: Moroccan Music and Trance in the Global Marketplace (Wesleyan University Press 2007), as well as numerous articles on sound, narrative and poetics. She is translating and editing a volume entitled Poetic Justice: An Anthology of Moroccan Contemporary Poetry (University of Texas Press), and is also completing two edited volumes: Theorizing Sound Writing, under consideration at the University of Chicago Press, and Intangible Rights: Cultural Heritage in Transit (in press, University of Pennsylvania Press).

Copyright © 2018. All Rights Reserved.