Charles Hirschkind: Musical Geographies of Islam in Europe

Posted on August 29th, 2011 in Events

November 17, 12:15 pm- 1:30 pm, Encina Hall West, Room 208

Islamic Studies Workshop*: Charles Hirschkind (University of California- Berkeley), Musical Geographies of Islam in Europe: Variations on an Andalusi Theme

Abstract: My exploration of certain musical currents in contemporary Spain is one piece of a broader inquiry into how Spain’s multiple and longstanding entwinements with the Middle East fracture and disrupt current attempts to consolidate European identity around a shared Christian heritage, one prophylactically articulated against a Muslim and Middle Eastern other. To be clear, I am not interested here in a historical defense of the claim that Spain’s musical traditions are genealogically linked to Middle Eastern poetic and musical forms. Rather, I want to explore the way practices and sensibilities cultivated and promoted by contemporary musicians articulate a distinct geographical, temporal, and epistemological space, one enabled by, but not reducible to, the political and economic forces that regulate heritage and tradition within global culture. In this sense, my interest here extends beyond music proper to its relations with the palimpsestic territory of Andalusia.

Charles Hirschkind is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. His research interests concern religious practice, media technologies, and emergent forms of political community in the urban Middle East and Europe. His book The Ethical Soundscape: Cassette Sermons and Islamic Counterpublics (2006) explores how a popular Islamic media form—the cassette sermon—has profoundly transformed the political geography of the Middle East over the last three decades. His current project is based in southern Spain and explores some of the different ways in which Europe’s Islamic past inhabits its present, unsettling contemporary efforts to secure Europe’s Christian civilizational identity. This project has been funded through an award from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

* Paper is available to Stanford affiliates upon request by email to

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