Learning to listen: The sound of sufism in France

Deborah Kapchan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


How does sound encode sacred affect? And how is sacred sound, and thus sacred emotion, learned? While much has been written on spiritual belief from the point of view of narrative (Harding 2003; Woolard and Schieffelin 1994) and the body (Csordas 1994), less attention has been paid to the power of "sound" and, more importantly, listening, to shape sacred identities and create community. This article attends to the aural dimensions of sacred ritual performance focusing on the role of music, chanting as well as listening and utterance in the performance of a Sufi wadhifa, or liturgy, including the ceremony of remembrance, or dhikr. Moving respectively through the social context, the ritual form and analytical frames, I end by explicating what I refer to as a "literacy of listening" (Kapchan 2008) - that is, the acquired ability to learn other cultures (specifically religious cultures, though not exclusively these) through participating in its sound economy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-89
Number of pages25
JournalWorld of Music
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music


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