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Faculty Brown Bag: Christine Dang
April 10, 2019 @ 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
Encountering the Other: Religious Voices in the City
One key thread in the contemporary history of Africa – a thread running parallel to and entwining with those of decolonization, independence, and nation-building – is urbanization. Throughout the past century, the continent has witnessed the mass migration of people from the countryside to the city, and the rapid growth of cities, both in size and in significance as paradigms of postcolonial society. This presentation is a reflection on spirituality and the urban, as refracted through the lens of musical practice. I will focus, in particular, on Senegal – on the migration of religious believers into its cities during the 20th century, and the sounds of faith which accompanied this migration. In Senegal – a secular, Muslim-majority nation – musical piety reverberates across urban areas, at all hours of the day and night. From the Islamic call to prayer, to the chanting of Sufi poetry, to the hymns of the Catholic minority population, the cities of Senegal are flooded by diverse religious voices, competing for acoustic and ideological control of public space. In these cities, Muslim and Christian voices encounter the voices of others, both sacred and secular; voices interact, influence, and are reciprocally influenced by the plurality of sonorities which constitute the urban environment. In their interaction and mutual influence, religious voices not only transform the sonic landscape of the Senegalese city; they also participate in continual redefinitions of postcolonial identity, secularism, and public space.