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Richard Jankowsky
Tufts University (Somerville, MA 02144-2401)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2009 – 12/31/2009

Sufis, Saints, and Their Songs: Sacred Music in Modern Tunisian History, from the Colonial Era to the War on Terror

This study of Sufism, music, and society explores the remarkable diversity of Sufi sounds, rituals, and beliefs in Tunisia, which has recently joined several other Muslim countries in reacting to the War on Terror by commodifying and promoting Sufi music as a symbol of religious pacifism and moderation. This represents only the latest stage in Sufism's public encounters with the Tunisian state, which only decades ago was committed to destroying Sufi shrines and eliminating deeply entrenched religious practices. Yet throughout this history of tension, Sufism not only survived, but also influenced secular domains of musical experience. I will study current musical practices and attitudes of Sufis from several traditions, situate them within Tunisian music history, and show how they articulate with the turbulent history of Tunisian society. By conveying the social and religious potency of these musics, I will also illuminate a plurality of approaches to Islam within a single society.