Academic Publications

“Narrativity in Sound: A Sound-Centered Approach to Indigenous Amazonian Ways

of Managing Relations of Alterity.” El Oído Pensante 5/2 (2017) 

Indigenous Amazonian peoples use musical sounds, natural sounds, and musicalized speech in a multitude of ways to manage transformational powers of movement, displacement, and historical engagement with various categories of “others”: mythic ancestor-spirits, spirits of the dead, animal and plant spirits, affines, neighboring indigenous peoples, and non-indigenous peoples. In this essay, we develop a sound-centered approach to relations of identity and alterity as a critical alternative to perspectivism, which privileges visual ways of knowing by characterizing relations with others as a process of “other-becoming” that allows humans to imaginatively see themselves from the other’s point of view and that reduces these processes to predatory relations of consuming, or being consumed by, “others”. The transformational powers of musical sounds and words go far beyond a mere shifting of perspective between humans and non-humans seen as predatory enemies. Instead, these musical processes are better understood as the creation of a shared musical-and-verbal sonic space of historical engagement that allows for acknowledging the otherness of the other and for effecting social transformations. The shift from myth-centered intellectualist approaches such as structuralism (or its contemporary manifestation as perspectivism) to sound-centered modes of theorizing has profound implications for the way research in ethnomusicology and linguistic anthropology is conceptualized and practiced. Ethnomusicologists are only beginning to grasp the full complexity of indigenous sonic worlds. We need to find ways of engaging these worlds by consciously taking into consideration our own practices of listening to, recording, andinterpretation of musical sounds; thus, understanding these practices as processes of creating sound-centered narratives in collaboration with our indigenous interlocutors. In this essay, we introduce the concept of ‘mike-positionality’, or the position of sound recordists as they interact with ethnographic subjects during inscription processes and as they participate in the broader processes of constructing sound-centered narratives. By calling attention to the analytical and creative dimensions of hearing, listening to, and recording human and non-human sounds, the concept of mike-positionality allows us to move toward an understanding of narrativity in sound as the basis for managing relations of alterity in Amazonia.

Keywords: Sonic ethnography, narrative practices, music-language interrelations, Northwestern Amazonia, media anthropology.

Article co-authored with Jonathan D. Hill. 



Spatial transformation of music practice in Istanbul: repositioning of subjectivities


This article analyzes changes in pedagogical practices of Sufi music in Istanbul based on socio-spatial reorganizations imposed by the Turkish State on the Ottoman society in the 1930s and their impact on the construction of current musicians’ subjectivities. Spatial secularization of Ottoman places intended to amend the social ties, redirecting those cultivated loyalties between the sonic and spiritual scenery towards academic agreements, promoted within new places for music learning produced by the Turkish State. This process, which was at the same time physical, material, social and cognitive of space, generated practices of resistance and struggles still unresolved, not only for the Turkish State, but for the modalities of subjective experience of teachers, musicians and audiences seeking to reposition themselves in the contemporary context of Istanbul.

Key words: Istanbul, urban transformation, ney, Turkish Republic, Sufism.




This paper discusses how religion through music is inscribed in different ways on people’s practices and specific speeches. First, it suggests an argument that explores sound thinking and its strategies related to the production of subjectivities, so that to apply it to the context of sacred music of Islam in general and particularly to the Ney’s flute teaching in Istanbul. Second, it shows the duo oratory and music teaching expressed by way of the interaction between students and teachers, which are suggested as a touchstone for the understanding of sound throughout the production of subjectivities in the spiritual Islam. Finally, the paper shows and discusses the frames of experience where the speeches coming from the Muslim mysticism are inscribed and where spiritual disciplines and their practitioners define their effectiveness.

Key words: anthropologies of Islam, musical thought, ney, Sufism.

Article in Spanish language. LINK: