This course examines traditional performances of the Arabic-speaking populations of the Middle East and North Africa. Starting with the history of the ways in which the West has discovered, translated and written about the Orient, we will consider how power and politics play roles in the production of culture, narrative and performance. This approach assumes that performance, verbal art, and oral literature lend themselves to spontaneous adaptation and to oblique expression of ideas and opinions whose utterance would otherwise be censorable or disruptive. In particular we will be concerned with the way traditional performance practices are affected by and respond to the consequences of modernization.
Topics include oral epic performance, sacred narrative, Koranic chant performance, the folktale, solo performance, cultural production and resistance.
Album image by Prof. Susan Slyomovics.
License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA
The Merchant of Art
Awadallah Abd al-Jalil Ali is the "merchant of art," a professional epic singer. The son and grandson of itinerant illiterate poets who have for generations recited the cycle of Arabic heroic tales called Sirat Bani Hilal.
Wedding Song: Henna Art among Pakistani Women in New York City
The film explores the exquisite mehendi body painting tradition as it is found in India and Pakistan and provides insight into new immigrant traditions.