Divinity in the age of its mechanical reproduction: Sounded pedagogy among dervishes in the Western Balkans
David Henig

School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent

The significance of sensory media in the study of creation, transmission and mediation of divine knowledge has been widely recognised. Yet very little has been written about the relationship between sensory media, divinity and creativity in the moments of rapture and discontinuity. In this paper I ethnographically document how production, circulation and exchange of sensory media – sounded objects of musical ritual performances – are used in the network of a Balkan dervish cult that strives to reassembling once lost religious knowledge. Dervish groups across the former Yugoslavia feel today a loss of continuity due to official bans and restrictions imposed by the state socialist state for several decades. The liberation of religious conduct since the early 1990s has opened new possibilities for reviving dervish teaching, and ecstatic rituals (zikr) in particular. Based on ethnographic fieldwork of a dervish cult that stretches between Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Albania, this paper documents dervishes’ engagements with sound and DVD media, to produce, gain and exchange divine knowledge. It illustrates how such an engagement with, and circulation of sensory media are creatively used by the dervishes as a sounded pedagogy to rehearse the musical ecstatic rituals in particular. This paper concludes that ethnographic engagement with soundscapes and its materiality sheds light on creative forms of ‘religious-knowledge-in-the making’.

NOTE: Part of the presentation will be showing audio/video examples of the sounded objects produced, used and/or exchanged by the dervishes. However, these cannot be attached and/or freely circulated for ethical reasons.

10:00 (PRM Lecture Theatre) Saturday, November 24
Session 1: Active Cultures of Recording


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