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Mu, Qian (2018) Experiencing God in Sound : Music and Meaning in Uyghur Sufism. PhD thesis. SOAS, University of London. DOI:

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Living in Xinjiang or Chinese Central Asia, the Uyghur people have developed a unique set of sounded Sufi practices in a largely isolated environment, although they have been historically connected to Sufism in other parts of Asia. The spectrum of such sounded Sufi practices range from the more basic vocalisation styles in dhikr recitation to the more musically sophisticated form of muqam/mäshräp, with their different functions in religious lives. Based on rare ethnographic data from a year’s fieldwork in the region, this study tries to provide in-depth analysis of meanings of these sounds and their related behaviour, especially the relationship between sounds and altered state of consciousness in the Uyghur Sufi case. Using musical, textual, and experiential analyses, this dissertation considers the meanings of Uyghur Sufi sounded practices and altered state of consciousness, drawing on previous research in ethnomusicology and approaches to Sufism. The study also looks at the mediation and transmission of Uyghur sounded Sufi practices in the context of the transnational flows, which connect this isolated region to wider trends, and ideological conflicts that are exacerbated by the development of media technologies. Finally, the dissertation analyses the political situation that is affecting Uyghur Sufi practices, especially through the author’s personal experience of organising tours for Uyghur Sufi musicians, which provides insights into the contemporary political context of these practices, as well as providing a reflexive approach to ethnomusicological practice when working with a musical culture that faces suppression.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Rachel Harris
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 May 2020 13:10

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