November 21st 2019 | 18:00-20:00 | Campolide Campus | Colégio Almada Negreiros | SE2
Deborah Kapchan | New York University
What part does listening play in sublimity? How do we witness the sublime and to what end? How might listening to the "Islamic sublime" provide political lessons for ethnography and responsible scholarship? Since beginning my research on Sunni Muslim Sufism in France in 2008, I have witnessed rising anxiety levels between secular-identified and Muslim-identified French citizens. Unlike many orthodox Muslims, however, Sufis worship with music and have a practice of deep listening (sama'). The Charlie Hebdo attacks, while acts of murder and fanaticism, nonetheless stirred up debates about the secular/sacred divide once again: virulent anti-clericalism met discourses of democracy, free-speech versus free-practice, 1789-99 versus 1968 versus 2015. I mention these events firstly because it is impossible not to reference them when researching any form of Islam in contemporary Europe, and secondly, because performing what might be called the 'Sufi sublime' is not an apolitical realm of mystical experience as many Sufis would like to believe. Rather I suggest that the sublime does the work that many other aesthetic expressions after modernity do: it displaces the human from the center of experience, putting ways of being before ways of knowing and enacting unexpected intimacies that confound rational understanding, insisting rather upon an aesthetic pedagogy that we might refer to as 'being-with- paradox. In this presentation, I delineate the way Sufi practices of listening travel between Morocco and France, and how listening becomes an active tool of socio-political transformation. I do this by examining what I call the "aesthetics of proximity" -- degrees of spatio-temporal as well as spatio-tactile closeness between sounds and bodies.
Deborah Kapchan is 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 (1996 Univ. of Pennsylvania Press), Traveling Spirit Masters: Moroccan Music and Trance in the Global Marketplace (2007 Wesleyan University Press), as well as numerous articles on sound, narrative and poetics. She translated and edited a volume entitled Poetic Justice: An Anthology of Moroccan Contemporary Poetry (in press University of Texas Center for Middle Eastern Studies) and is the editor of two recent works: Intangible Rights: Cultural Heritage in Transit (2014 University of Pennsylvania Press) and Theorizing Sound Writing (2017 Wesleyan University Press). She was also the editor (with Pauline Strong) of a special issue of the Journal of American Folklore, entitled Theorizing the Hybrid (1999). She is currently writing two books: The Aesthetics of Proximity and Between Morocco and France: The Festive Sacred and the Islamic Sublime. She is also writing a sonic memoir entitled Listening Methods.