Universiteit Leiden

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Soundscapes of Uyghur Islam

  • Rachel Harris
Wednesday 15 March 2017
Borders: Life On the Fringes of Area Studies
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

NOTE: The starting time of this lecture has changed to 16:00 hrs.

Rachel’s research is based on fieldwork across borders, working with Turkic Muslim Uyghur communities in Xinjiang, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. What can attention to sound contribute to our understanding of the patterns of religious change and political tension in this region? How do new religious modalities circulate within Uyghur society, and how do people listen to, embody, and reproduce them? The study begins with a group of Uyghur women in a small village in southern Xinjiang, and explores the spiritual and political geographies they inhabit, moving outwards from the village to trace circuits of connection with Mecca, Cairo, Istanbul, Turkestan, Bishkek, and Beijing. It encompasses field-based ethnographic study of village ritual practices, and digital ethnography of mediated spheres of religious life, oral traditions of Central Asian Sufism, transnational flows of Qur’anic recitation and radical nasheed, ideological debates and state interventions. In the fraught sphere of the discourse surrounding Islamic revivals, where dominant narratives privilege the visual in ways that routinely stereotype, demonize, and render Muslim subjects as passive Others, attending to the politics of voice and place may help us to cut through the polarized political debates, and create new narratives about the lived experience of Islam.

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