Explaining trance and music, part deux

I’d like to now offer a different viewpoint on Richard Jankowsky’s Stambeli (2010), in which I focus on what I take to be the book’s excellent points (of which there are in fact many). While my criticism of Jankowsky’s take on trance and spirit possession as human phenomena (rather than as subjective, individual phenomena) remains a sticking point for me, it surely cannot be taken to be a critique of the work as a whole.

One reason that Jankowsky’s take on trance denies the necessity of its explication has to be that his focus is squarely on musicians rather than trancers (in this case, as in many, they are separate (one reason why trance can’t be considered as inherent to the music (if it were, then musicians would be trancing along with the trancers, no? (which is why one expert on trance, Gilbert Rouget, so coyly wrote that if that were true, then “half of Africa would be in a trance from the beginning of the year to the end” (1986:175))))). Now, what makes this interesting is that it changes Jankowsky’s focus: if you focus your analysis on the trancers, then how and why trancing occurs becomes central to explaining the trance event. If you focus on how the context of ritual makes trance possible, you can effectively ignore the “facts” of trance and consider the process of ritual in developing trance-states.

I think this fairly encapsulates Jankowsky’s approach to stambeli trance, and it explains his relative disinterest in the internal workings of trance-states, the process and efficacy of healing, and the “facts” of trancing behavior. This is similar to doing research in a hospital and focusing not on patients but rather on doctors (and not making that distinction strongly enough ;P).

One reason why this approach is interesting (despite sidestepping the thorny issue of trance and subjectivity) is that it points to a key feature of many Middle Eastern musical forms: the patterning of musical “suites”. The thoughtful figuration of different musical forms, genres, and non-musical practices and objects is one widely shared performance technique throughout the region. Crucially, as Jankowsky points out, its is not only music that prepares humans for trance, but a wide range of spatial, sensual, social, and ritual cues, ranging from smells to objects to the development of rhythms. He may even underemphasize the significance of the suite format (exemplified in both the nūba and silsila terms) in connecting stambeli to broader trends in Middle Eastern ritual and art musics.

Interestingly, this trance format does not rely on the punctuation of grooves with suitable “breaks”, as is so common in Afro-Caribbean trance musics (watch 1:30 to 2:00 here for Papa Legba in Haitian vodou) but rather on the gradual, predictable, and necessary microscopic shifting of the groove from one identifiable pattern into another. Jankowsky’s method for outlining this glacial shift should absolutely be emulated. Rather than taking the musical notions of “measure”, “meter”, or “accent pattern” as fixed, he shows how periods of unit-time are slowly re-accentuated over the development of particular grooves. Jankowsky refers to these unit-times as “rhythmic cells”, and very clearly documents their compression in performance of particular tunes, seen here on ‘his’ website.

One more element of Jankowsky’s ethnography that needs to be drawn out is his intense and constant interest in the deployment of aesthetic terminology amongst practitioners. While some musicians may not devote much thought to the ways in which their sounds are undergirded by music theory (rather trusting themselves as practitioners to “do it right”), an extreme amount of attention is devoted to timbre, timbral blending, and what Jankowsky usefully calls “musical motion” – that is, the sense that musical sound is necessarily directed, goal-driven, and processual.

Lastly, this film on stambeli is particularly great.


Taking an extended look at features that grabbed my attention is only a service to me, to be sure. I like the idea of putting down some of my ideas in a format that is neither “notes” nor a “review”, but rather a more casual conceptual look at the pros and cons of  recent musical ethnographies. Hopefully, this will provide a place for less formal thoughts that may be of some interest to colleagues and other readers and help frame my thinking for my future research.

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Explaining trance and music?

Tony Perman has written an excellent and timely(-ish) review of two important contemporary ethnomusicological/anthropological viewpoints on trance and spirit possession in this summer’s Ethnomusicology 57(2). His 2008 dissertation on Ndau spirit possession and aesthetics in Zimbabwe is well worth reading, even though I strongly disagree with many of his analytical points. I’ll talk about those in a later post.

I’m attempting here to offer a take on Perman’s article by closely analyzing his claims about one of the reviewed texts. I hope to utilize critique here not as a sledgehammer but as a kind of diagnostic – that is, not in a destructive capacity but in a strengthening capacity. The first mode of critique is so common that it seems to sate only the bloodlust of graduate students (and was a favorite mode of mine), so moving in a new direction seems not only necessary but fundamentally more productive.

If you read Perman’s piece, then you might be thinking that I’m mistaken about there being two views, because in fact there were three views on trance outlined in the article: one in Judith Becker’s Deep Listeners (2003), one in Steven Friedson’s Remains of Ritual (2009), and one in Richard Jankowsky’s Stambeli (2010). But there are only two. Because Jankowsky’s “perspective” on trance is not really a perspective in its current iteration.


Now, I’ve spent a good part of this past summer with Jankowsky’s book, and I have a great deal of respect for 95% of it, but I think his account of trance in general is unsatisfying when compared to Friedson or Becker’s position.

Basically, the two current positions on trance seem to simplify downwards into 1) a position that recognizes trance as a universal human cultural-biological phenomenon that is fundamentally learned (Becker) and 2) a position that regards trance as an ineffable, unique ‘kind’ of ideational and bodily experience, which precludes translation (Friedson). Jankowsky argues that neither position is wholly adequate, and thus claims a “militant middle ground” that I think leads to some rather avoidable problems.

A charitable reading of this middle ground is that what we have here in these two positions is a continuum of explicability in studies of trance: from largely explicable in Becker to largely inexplicable in Friedson. A ideal conception of the middle ground would be that it makes room for some explanations of the process of trance, while noting that some aspects are best construed as so tied to individual experience that it is only amenable to analogy. Indeed, the best case for the middle ground is claiming that the middle ground privileges participants’ own understandings, mediating between ideas about the healing potential of trance and the very subjective nature of some aspects of possession. Indeed, this is what Jankowsky hopes for. Unfortunately, I was not convinced that he achieved it.

There are several real problems with this middle ground as currently conceived.

The first is that it avoids discussion of a fruitful question about humans and trance states not by providing a novel solution or restatement of the question, but rather by ignoring it. We could imagine a restatement of the issue (the “explicability of trance”) that refocuses scholarly attention not on explaining trance but on how trance is achieved, what role it plays in the construction of subjectivities, etc. Jankowsky even claims that trance is not a problem that needs to be explained, but he crucially does not follow this statement far enough.

The second problem stems from his recognition of the first issue. In claiming 1) that there is a middle ground of explicability that is exemplified by participants’ understandings, and 2) that trance is not a problem that needs to be explained, Jankowsky has set up a real pickle that he does not resolve.

The third problem is a direct result of his articulation of the middle ground as an account of participants’ explanations of trance and its value. First, much of his ethnography deals with male musicians who appear to deal with trance quite differently than female practitioners. While female practitioners seek healing and advice, male musicians and ritual experts regularly deride people’s ideas about what trance can achieve. But rather than fleshing out a picture of what trance and the spirits might be capable of, Jankowsky simply doesn’t seem interested in those aspects. Likely, this is partially due to access to female interlocutors, a focus on music rather than medicine, etc. But to claim that your analysis is predicated on eliciting understandings of trance that are based on practitioners’ understandings and then spending much of the book putting together a totally synthetic account of “alterity” is counterproductive to that point.

The fourth issue with this explanation of trance is that it purports to seek explanations of trance and trance-related activity from what Ernest Gellner called ‘its world’ – which Gellner claimed (rightly, I think) is not only impossible but fundamentally not useful. An account of a particular practice in terms of its practitioners would not explain key terms, highlight structural aspects, note contacts between different social groups, etc. since these would be tacitly understood. Further, the capacity for ethnomusicological understanding is predicated on modes of thought and reasoning utilized in ethnomusicology.

Jankowsky’s account of trance simply smuggles in assumptions about explicability in terms of ‘our world’, while claiming that he is offering a participant-centric view that is basically impossible in the ethnographic idiom. This issue is particularly obvious with his focus on musical processes that are simply manifest in musical practice, apparent disinterest in the healing capacities of trance, and theoretically rich explications of the notion of ‘alterity’ that don’t appear endemic.

The final serious problem I have with Jankowsky’s work is the following statement, offered as a kind of rebuke to Becker’s position: “even if we found a groundbreaking synapse firing or intensification of hypothalamic activity in trance-state brain-mapping, this would probably be of little interest to participants, for whom the framework of spirit possession is crucial to finding meaning and situating experience socially” (24). Reading between the lines, it appears that Jankowsky is claiming that this kind of data – on quantifiable ways that brains, bodies, and individuals actually process and experience trance-states – is not important to participants, even though they take quite seriously the healing potential of trance, which must at some level be somatic. Secondly, does this imply that anything not of interest to participants is not of interest to researchers? If Jankowsky had discovered this synapse, would he not have recorded it? Could he not have? This seems quite backward and clearly not the way he approached most of his research – I’m sure, like all of us, he asked reams of questions that simply annoyed his teacher, Bābā Majīd, with their seeming triviality. Are those questions not worth asking or answering?

I think all of these potential problems can be addressed by Jankowsky, and some shown to be my own misunderstandings, more likely than not. In very real ways, I think a medial position on trance study is really a way forward as Perman articulated it in the review – allowing for both the difficulties of relating personal experience and accounting for the unambiguously universal aspects of trance while resisting unitary answers and concomitant speculation.

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The history of Buildingology.

I wanted to write a short parable or mini-roman à clef about a topic that I’ve touched on before. This story is wholly fictional, I assure you.

            Once upon a time, in an academy far, far away, there was a small group of people who lived in and loved buildings. But not any buildings. Buildings made out of brick, and only brick. This was the only building material they knew of, and they loved it. Rightly so, even, because their brick buildings were wonderful to behold. They decided together that they should study why and how brick buildings were so beautiful and pleasing. They called what their discipline “Buildingology” — the study of buildings in general. Buildingology was a successful discipline insofar as it produced satisfying and robust stories about how brick buildings came to be, how and why they could be considered beautiful and pleasing, and the history of the variety of bricks utilized in making brick buildings.

            One day, some buildingologists heard that there were objects that they recognized as buildings from a country far across the sea. They needed to see this new kind of brick building, to understand it as part of the development of brick buildings (they had a strong suspicion that these buildings (presumably of inferior brick) would be primitive examples of modern brick buildings). So they hopped in a plane made out of bricks, and flew to that distant land.

            When they arrived, they were shocked by everything they saw. Not only was the food terrible, the purported brick buildings were nowhere to be found. Rather, they found buildings built out of concrete, buildings made of wood, buildings made of stone, and buildings made of hide. “These are terrible brick buildings,” they thought, “there are no bricks! What a perfectly hideous way to make a brick building.” They spoke to some of the residents.

“Is this a brick building?” the buildingologists asked.

 “A brick building?” the residents responded. “No, it’s a concrete building. We use concrete to make buildings. What’s a brick?”

  “What’s a brick?!” the buildingologists cried. “How terrible! They don’t know what a brick is.” Oh, how they pulled their hair, imagining a life without brick buildings. “Bricks are so beautiful! And useful! Oh, brick and brick buildings!”

“Tell us what a brick is!” the residents pleaded. “This ‘brick’ stuff must be pretty great if you are so upset!”

 “Of course it is,” the buildingologists replied, pulling themselves together. “We’re buildingologists – we study buildings in general, you know – and buildings are made out of bricks.” The residents noticed a slight puffing of the buildingologists chests.

“Oh. See, we make our buildings out of concrete. Our neighbors use wood. There are people who live in the mountains and they use stone. And you use brick?” the residents asked.

“Yes,” the buildingologists replied, “and I assure you all that our brick buildings are quite excellent because bricks are excellent.”

“Bricks,” the buildingologists continued, academically, “are obviously the best building material, when compared to totally brickless concrete. Indeed, bricks are the only civilized building material. Bricks are ideal: you may stack them and produce any shape, you can build ever upwards and outwards, and they are easy to make, portable, colorful, easily adaptable to any situation. Bricks are quite natural too; if you look at the stars, you will recognize many brick-like shapes. If you look at trees, you will see they resemble brick buildings. If you listen to the wind, you will hear that it softly whispers ‘briiiicks’. Bricks are the basic building blocks of our material world, and of this we are quite certain, because we’ve written several large books on the topic. I imagine you can build any of your ‘buildings’ out of brick and improve them.”

“Oh,” the residents replied thoughtfully, scratching their chins. “Well, these are concrete, so they can’t be buildings. What might we call them, then?”

“I imagine we should call them ‘hovels’,” the buildingologists sniffed. “I’m sure we had hovels once, long ago, until we replaced them with brick.”

“Wow,” the residents said. “That must be great, all those advanced brick buildings.” The residents had witnessed their buildings turned to hovels before their very eyes!

“Yes, it is.” Replied the buildingologists, idly buffing their fingernails. “Good thing we figured out this whole ‘building/hovel’ mess.”

They hopped back on their brick plane and returned home, rather assured that buildingology was best served by ignoring hovels.


Okay, so that’s a very badly written parable. I’d like to offer a great little quip that illustrates just this brand of idiocy that I recall from my first year in the Ethno program.

At a seminar about the relationship between ethnomusicology and musicology, a middle-ageish musicologist was (absolutely randomly, as far as I could tell) trying to rebut some weird phantom relativist strawman argument about holding all musics as equally expressive or something by saying, and I wrote this down to be sure:

“Listen, some people say that all architecture is equally useful, keep out the rain and all that. But let’s say there are two buildings in the world: an igloo, and a Romanesque Cathedral. I’m telling you: the cathedral is better. It’s just better. They are beautiful, amazing pieces of architecture! I prefer cathedrals, ok? I think they are objectively better than igloos. I’m sure igloos are nice, though. Can’t I just like cathedrals better because they are better? And if cathedrals are better, then studying cathedrals is more important! Can’t we all agree to these obvious starting points?”

He was so earnest and it was obvious that he truly did believe what he said.

Right after that, I died.


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[Ethno]+[music]+[o]+[logy] = *groan*

Sociologist, cultural critic, renaissance man Hamid Dabashi wrote a nice opinion piece on al-Jazeera in January 2013 that I just recently came across with the great title “Can Non-Europeans Think?”, ruminating with his characteristic… eh… candor? Maybe candor is the right word? Straightforwardness? Anyway, proffering his uncompromising take on the peculiar brand of academic chauvinism that I wrote about recently.

His piece was provoked by reading what he called a “lovely little panegyric” to the Slovenian thinker Slavoj Žižek on al-Jazeera, which listed him among the world’s great philosophers – a list which was conspicuous in its lack of any non-Europeans (also conspicuous for including Žižek). Dabashi considers this a Eurocentric practice of creating space for thought only within a particular European paradigm, which works to exclude thinkers in other traditions. And he’s right. We see this most obviously when we ‘mark’ certain kinds of scholars – we more rarely say that Malabou is writing “French Philosophy” or is contributing to philosophy from a particularly “French” perspective, whereas any African philosopher must be noted as “African”. Malabou is striding forward and expanding the boundaries of European philosophy, whereas African philosophers are granted neither a history nor a place within European thought, with certain exceptions (St. Sugustine, most obviously). Even Malabou is marked as a ‘Woman’ philosopher, despite her own discomfort with that attribution. ‘French’ is not a word that categorizes Malabou as anything but having the proper pedigree.

Dabashi’s argument is well worn, but bears repeating. Studies of the philosophy of Africans like Tempel’s “La Philosophie Bantoue” are in some very real sense anthropological works, not evaluations of philosophical thinking.

One place where this issue intersects with my goals here is his question:

Why is it that if Mozart sneezes it is “music” (and I am quite sure the great genius even sneezed melodiously) but the most sophisticated Indian music ragas are the subject of “ethnomusicology”?

I think one simple answer from ethnomusicologists is: “We know, it’s stupid.”

There were, before my time, but in the recent memory of many ethnomusicologists, a huge self-flagellating auto-critique of the term ‘ethnomusicology’ in the 1990s, and no new name could be agreed on. Some obvious names, taking their cue from anthropology, like “Sociomusicology” (NSFW, NSFS [not safe for soul], also not sociomusicology) and “cultural musicology” were objected to by musicologists because they considered their interest in European music to be “social” and “cultural” just as much as anyone else. For my part, I couldn’t care less for this argument, since it seems like a jealous kid making claims about why no one can play with his toys because he might someday sometime want to play with them at some unknown point in the future. the size, breadth, heft, and depth of academic musicology is constantly surprising to me.

I know European music is social and cultural (spoilers: very nearly all music is), but that doesn’t mean a) that musicologists necessarily are interested in these things, b) that there could be no such discipline, or c) that any current musicologist would be excluded from such a discipline.

A fuller account of the naming issue would have to deal not only with the question of the topic itself, but the ways in which ethnomusicological work is inexplicably transformed and translated from one context to the next. In South India, the same ragam studied in the same context and with the same method would be considered a musicological or anthropological enterprise, while an American researcher would be compelled to refer to this as ‘ethnomusicology’. The very discipline that is associated with the research is changed – even if a South Asian student comes to the United States to study, she becomes an ‘ethnomusicologist’ by default, with very rare exceptions.

This issue was the subject of an interesting debate in a seminar on South Asian music I attended, discussing Nazir Jairazbhoy’s The Rags of North Indian Music: Their Structure and Evolution (1971). The book itself is a straightforward musical-theoretical/hypothetical account of the development of Hindustani rags based on a series of scalar developments and subsequent musical calibrations. The only thing that could qualify the book as “ethnomusicology” is its reference to Hindustani music – otherwise, it is entirely a work of music theory. Yet, it is still classified as ‘ethnomusicology’.

Really, and perhaps I should be disabused of this notion, the problem seems to lie in the American academic relationship between Musicology (Mozart sneezing) and Ethnomusicology (rag-s). I think a shared notion amongst many ethnomusicologists is that ‘Ethnomusicology’ should be named ‘Musicology’, that is, the study of all music, and what is now ‘Musicology’ should be an area study of a particular constellation of regional variations of generalized human musical culture. I would wager that an alien that came to study human studies of human music would be baffled by the role of Musicology as a parent discipline to Ethnomusicology (both of which were arguably envisioned by Guido Adler at the same time in 1885).

But I don’t think that will happen. I’m often optimistic, but it seems impossible. There are just way more musicologists than ethnomusicologists, and groups with relatively more power (in the broadest sense here) rarely give that up to subordinate groups (again, broadest sense) to fix kinds of observed logical irregularities that serve their purposes.

I don’t know. There are plenty of musicologists who see this as an issue and ethnomusicologists need to appreciate them and work with them to integrate insights from the two disciplines to further our study of human/animal musicality. Nicholas Cook’s Music: A Very Short Introduction is a good example of this – he integrates some knowledge of human musical ingenuity and variation to supplement general points about music.  But even Cook can’t or won’t really grapple with some basic ethnomusicological critiques of the study of music in general.

The issue remains that calling a discipline “ethno-something” is already quaint, pedantic, othering, and deeply problematic. Some of us simply refer to our field as “musicology” whenever we aren’t around jealous musicologists, others, like myself, consider ethnomusicologists to be anthropologists who take seriously aesthetic and performative practices. The virtue of the first is that it includes people who prioritize musical features of non-Western traditions, the virtue of the second is that I can pretend I’m not involved with the occasional myopia of Music departments, a context I’ve never felt comfortable in.

I think the real root of the problem is the way in which the social sciences and humanities so uncomfortably overlap in this necessarily interdisciplinary endeavor. I really believe that the current state of the American academy has an endless taste for talking the talk of interdisciplinary work while tacitly discouraging interdisciplinary work.

The Society for Ethnomusicology’s Student Concerns Committee’s (oh my god terrible naaaaame, also FB link) main organ ‘Student News’ is devoting its next issue to ‘Interdisciplinarity’, which may give us some good perspectives on the topic. Maybe?

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International Scholarship and the Politics of Citation

Many of the folks I know in academia have been circulating Talal Asad’s recent interview with Ayça Çubukçu on “Jadaliyya” concerning the present situation in Egypt. In many ways it’s an exceptionally erudite and thoughtful piece, and it certainly outpaces much of the drivel that gets shoveled out by “experts” in Arab politics on Egypt. I witnessed a particularly unsatisfying account of the Egyptian revolution in 2011 based on some trivial analysis of the penal system. One reason that the work seemed so thin was that it did not engage with any Egyptian, let alone Arab, thinkers – philosophical, anthropological, sociological, political, historical, or otherwise. It seemed like an abstract and neatly packaged presentation of a perfectly understandable society, not at all reflecting the pace, history, and intricacy of the developments in Tahrir.

I want to be clear that my only concern with Asad’s analysis is pretty shallow — that things like what he discussed have been thoughtfully sketched out by  sources that remain totally unacknowledged. That problem is much more serious in other work, but that’s better saved for another time. It was an interview after all, so I’m merely noting the absence of something that’s endemic to a genre of academic work. I don’t know anyone who speaks in citations, but reading the interview made me reconsider some of those concerns, so I decided to write about them here in order to give them some kind of form. You may totally disagree, as Asad probably would.

I’ve been reading Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab’s excellent “Contemporary Arab Thought: cultural critique in comparative perspective” (2010) so as not to replicate this kind of blatant oversight. So you can’t say I learned nothing from that thin penal system narrative. I have been especially struck by her analysis of Sadeq Jalal al-Azm’s trajectory as a critical thinker. I’ve never read his “Self-Criticism after the Defeat” (1969) or “Critique of Religious Thought” (1970) but am certainly putting it on my to-do list. He, along with Hisham Sharabi, Abdallah Laroui, Samir Amin, Bassam Tibi, Abdelkebir Khatibi, Nawal Al-Saadawi, and Fuad Khoury form a powerful and robust theoretical infrastructure for analyzing the Arab Spring in general… but I’ve yet to see any of them cited.

The politics of citation are a persistent issue in anthropology, a discipline which more than any other should respect the widest possible range of opinions and interpretations. Instead, otherwise nuanced (and some not so much) takes on social phenomena are churned through the “Black Box” of some non-anthropological theoretician’s abstract ruminations on a topic and the outcome hinges less on hard-nosed investigation and more on isolating the right series of facts to produce a story that most closely resembles that theoretician’s expectations. Needless to say, the white, male, and privileged social status of the theoretician is never put to question.

To be clear, I’m in no way arguing for the inclusion of Arab social scientists and thinkers simply on the basis of diversity. Rather, the reason to include them in our theoretical parsing of the Arab world is and should be only based on their studied insight into Arab society. So much of what I read in the first half of Asad’s interview could (should?) have been attributed to al-Azm’s, Sharabi’s, and Khouri’s social criticism since the 1970s. Many of the issues Asad and Çubukçu highlighted should be closely related to these scholars’ analyses of Arab socio-political culture over the past few decades, especially in light of Sharabi’s “Neopatriarchy” (1992). This is also not to say we ought to imagine all Arab social science is totally innocent of the idiocy we sometimes see in Euro-American social science — see Omnia El-Shakry’s brilliant “The Great Social Laboratory” (2007)  to instantly dispel yourself of that notion. Why, though, are these sources so routinely ignored? Or am I just wrong? Is this common in research on other countries or regions? Do scholars of contemporary post-socialist states so routinely ignore Soviet anthropology?

One reason for this tendency could be that none of them are “magic bullets” – indeed, many are so unabashedly structuralist or essentialist that they are hard to swallow. Khouri’s “Tents and Pyramids: Games and ideology in Arab culture from Backgammon to Autocratic rule” (2000) is a good example of the structural tendency. If you don’t accept structuralism in Euro-American social thought, you’d have no compelling reason to take Khouri’s work as anything other than another flawed replication of it. Sharabi deploys a psychological reading that may be objectionable to those who find that tendency oversimplified, etc. They are dismissed out of hand as members of a literature that has already been “proven wrong”.  One strange exception to this is the continued usage of 14th-century scholar Ibn Khaldun’s strong functionalist account of social change in the Arab world. Ibn Khaldun’s success has to be partially construed as part of its intelligent scholarship, the intense interest in his work via Ernest Gellner and his genealogy, and current trends in functionalism with regards to studying power relations.

There should be no hesitation to engage with these works based on the internal weaknesses of the patterns of thought upon which they are based, which is a burden that any social scientist based in any paradigm needs to carry. There is no monopoly on accuracy, critical rigor, or anthropological knowledge in Euro-American social science.

What to do? First, clearly a strong engagement with  scholarship from outside our own milieu is necessary, treating it with neither kid gloves nor feigned interest. To do so, we need to recognize and destabilize the construction and consolidation of authority on “other cultures” in the American university. One ethnomusicologist who is truly an excellent example of this tendency is UCLA’s Jacqueline DjeDje, who expresses her thoughts on the subject in her 2006 article in PRE, “Scholarly Authority“. I don’t think this means we abandon expertise or authority, but we should recognize authority not in individuals but in ongoing and rigorous research avenues that are shared amongst a community of scholars.

One way I imagine our generation of scholars pressing the inquiry of social science forward is by taking advantage of global interconnections and digital publishing to create more multi-lingual and multi-typographical publications and increasing our interest in translating current non-European language works (admirably undertaken by HAU (mostly European languages, still) and Jadaliyya, for example). I’m sure we can do it. In a related but separate note, we should also seriously commit to making the US a site for research for foreign scholars — think about it — when was the last time you read about a foreign scholar writing on the culture of the United States?

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