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Suggestions of Movement: Voice and Sonic Atmospheres in Mauritian Muslim Devotional Practices

By Patrick Eisenlohr

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Cite As:
Eisenlohr, Patrick. 2018. “Suggestions of Movement: Voice and Sonic Atmospheres in Mauritian Muslim Devotional Practices”. Cultural Anthropology 33 (1), 32-57. https://doi.org/10.14506/ca33.1.02.

Abstract

In this essay I make a case for the analytic of atmospheres as a way to understand the seemingly ineffable, yet powerful effects of vocal sound on listeners in an Islamic setting. Focusing on the recitation of devotional poetry in honor of the Prophet Muhammad among Mauritian Muslims, I seek to bring together neo-phenomenological approaches to sonic atmospheres with recent anthropological research on the voice that seeks to overcome the opposition of discursive signification and sonic materiality. Detailed examination of sonic events shows that sonic atmospheres enact suggestions of movement that go beyond the metaphorical. Arguing against theories of sonic affect that take the sonic to be an asignifying material flux, I seek to demonstrate that vocal sound’s meaningfulness is internal to the processual nature of its material forms.

Keywords

voice; sound; atmospheres; affect; Islam; Mauritius; South Asia