Department of Religious Studies

Norah Elamir: comparing the Theological Concept of Isma From the Early Modern Periods of Islam

Fri, April 8, 2016 | CAL Reading Room

2:00 PM - 3:00 PM

• ISL Graduate Student Colloquium - Every other Friday, 2-3 pm, in CAL 516
Organizer: Samy Ayoub, MES

Alex Kreger, Doctoral Student, Musicology and Ethnomusicology
Voice, Listening, and Space in Alevi Collective Worship Ritual

 This paper will focus on the ways in which Alevi aural dispositions and spatial constructions constitute and reinforce one another. These auralities and spacialities are rehearsed and disciplined within the context of collective worship [cem, muhabbet], but play a broader role in molding and thus preserving the Alevi community as a religious minority in Turkey and the diaspora. Two Alevi concepts play an especially prominent role in regulating the relationship between sound and space. Dem refers to the divine power which resides in the words, voice, and breath of spiritually mature individuals, as well as the moment in which this power manifests. It is also the name for the alcohol Alevis may drink as part of their collective worship services. With the idea of dem, Alevis draw a link between listening and the acquisition of knowledge on the one hand, and drinking and interiority on the other that is embodied in the phrase “dem is drunk by the ears” [dem kulaktan içilir]. Meanwhile, dem is emplaced through its association with a face, or didar. The Alevi fixation on didar creates spatial orientations also experienced as listening vectors linking people together. Instead of facing towards Mecca while praying, Alevis face towards one another because they see God in the human being him or herself, and the beauty of God reflected in the beauty of the human countenance. As a result, Alevi spiritual landscapes differ strikingly from those of Sunni Islam, in which prayer is oriented towards a single, remote point. 

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