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HomeThe Transnationalization of Religion through Music

The Transnationalization of Religion through Music

La transnationalisation du religieux par la musique

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Published on Friday, September 19, 2014


The transnationalization of religion refers to the relocalization of beliefs, rituals and religious practices beyond state lines, in real or symbolic spaces, with the help of new imaginaries and narrative identities (Capone 2005). By studying musical mobility and its reception in local contexts, this conference aims at understanding how music "migrates" along with religions, how it contributes to the construction of plural societies, and the fundamental role it plays in the creation and recreation of ideas, identities, and religious practices in a transnational context.



The concept of “transnationalism” emerged in the early 1990s in the field of migration studies. Seeking to go beyond the nation-state as the frame of analysis, transnationalism was initially defined as the “process by which immigrants forge and sustain multi-stranded social relations that link together their societies of origin and settlement” (Basch et al., 1994). Rather than being confined to studies of migration, however, the concept was rapidly taken up in many different fields. The work of Slobin (1993), which figures among the main pioneering studies on the concept, provided important foundations for theorizing the issue of music and transnationalism.

Although the concept is certainly interesting, the application of transnational theory to music rarely engages in musical analysis of the processes at work. Instead, research using this theoretical approach tends to examine music from a sociological perspective, focusing particularly on popular and secular music that has acquired a transnational dimension, such as jazz, rock, rap, reggae, zouk, and, of course, world music. Studies seeking to explore the connections between music and religion from a perspective that considers both issues of music and transnationalism are few and far between. Yet music plays a central role in religious transnationalization. The mobility of music, musicians, and musical media contributes to the dissemination of religious ideas, identities, and practices beyond national borders. The flow of music weaves together religious networks that transcend the nation-state. Musical deterritorialization and reterritorialization promotes the creation of transnational religious communities that cultivate the imagination of a country of origin and a place of settlement (more or less virtual or imagined) in order to construct new identities.

While far from being a new concept, musical transnationalization of religion has accelerated and intensified over the course of the 20th century: with new means of transportation and communication, the phenomenon now occurs on a more global scale. If the musical transnationalization of religion was historically associated with missionary activities, colonialism, and slavery, it also occurs within the context of migration and, more broadly, with the movement of musicians, the circulation of songbooks, and the dissemination of recordings in various media, both tangible (LPs, cassette tapes, CDs, and DVDs) and intangible (radio, television, and the Internet). In each of these contexts, the rhythms, melodies, lyrics, repertoires, dances, and instruments circulate and promote significations that contribute to the reshaping of worldviews, religious identities, rituals, prayers, and modes of divine presence. By studying musical mobility and its reception in local contexts, this conference seeks to understand how musical transnationalization contributes to the homogenization of worship practices on a global scale while at the same time reaffirming local identities through a process of indigenization (Appadurai 2005).

Another particular ambition, on a higher epistemological level, is to find some common ground for researchers who do not necessarily speak the same academic language. This conference thus endeavours to promote the juxtaposition of different disciplinary backgrounds as well as musical repertoires that are historically and geographically distant.


Thursday, October 16th

8:00-8:45 : Welcome and Registration

8:45-9:00 : Word of Welcome: Michel Duchesneau, Nathalie Fernando, Hugo Ferran

9:00-10:00 : Keynote Lecture : Kay Kaufman Shelemay, Harvard University – Musical Nostalgia and Newness in Mobile Religions: Insights from the Ethiopian Diaspora

10:00-10:20 : Break – Foyer Claude-Champagne

10:20-12:20 : Panel : Perspectives on African-American religious music

Session chair: Hugo Ferran

  • Clara Biermann, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense – Chanter les Orishas. Sacralisation du candombe afro-uruguayen et construction d’afrodescendance
  • Élise Heinisch, Université Paris-Sorbonne – Analyse du processus rhizomatique de transnationalisation du culte brésilien Umbanda par son répertoire musical
  • Ryan Bazinet, John Jay College of Criminal Justice – Afro-Trinidadian Religion and Music: Comparing Orisha and Rada
  • Amanda Villepastour, Cardiff University –  “In the Land of the Blind, a One-Eyed Man Makes Himself King”: Big Musicians in the Making of London Santería

12:20-1:30 : Lunch – Foyer Claude-Champagne

1:30-3:30 : Panel : Transcending borders, nations, and minority groups through music

Session chair: François Picard

  • Diao Ying, University of Maryland – Remolding Religious Practices through Music: The Transnational Musical Exchange among the Christian Lisu on the China-Burma Border
  • Dustin Wiebe, Wesleyan University – The Island of Whose Gods?: Interreligious Network Formation and the Transnationalization of Gamelan Music in Bali
  • Bader Mousa Al-Saif, Georgetown University – American Muslim Hip Hop & Islam in America: Intertwined Evolution & Exportation
  • Victor Randrianary, Université de Mayotte – Une identité arrachée. Le debaa, une pratique féminine soufie de Mayotte

3:30-3:50 : Break – Foyer Claude-Champagne

3:50-5:50 : Panel : Redefining sacred/secular music and the role of the researcher

Session chair: Kay Kaufman Shelemay

  • Maisie Sum, University of Waterloo – Constructing the Sacred, Negotiating the Secular: A Structural Analysis of Gnawa Music Performance
  • Yonatan Gez, Institut des hautes études internationales et du développement – Churching, clubbing and hopping: Rethinking church participation in Kenya in terms of entertainment and the appeal of music
  • Owen Coggins, The Open University – Amplifier Worship: The Transnational Recombination of Religious Symbols in Drone Metal
  • Jean Pouchelon, Université de Nanterre / Université de Montréal – Gnawa de Paris et de Montréal

5:50-6:30 : Cocktail reception – Foyer Claude-Champagne

6:30-7:30 : Concert of Gnawa Music – B-484

Friday, October 17th

8:00-9:00: Welcome and Registration

9:00-10:00 Panel : Religious music festivals and translocal soundscapes

Session chair: Emmanuelle Olivier

  • Jessica Roda, Université du Québec à Montréal – Du réseau transnational au milieu local : l'artiste séfarade comme icône de la réussite juive marocaine à Montréal
  • Monika Salzbrunn et Raphaela von Weichs, Université de Lausanne – Traverser des paysages sonores translocaux : Réflexions méthodologiques sur la transnationalisation du religieux à travers la musique et les événements

10:00-11:00 : Panel : Mores and ethical standards in music

Session chair: Nathalie Fernando

  • Gilles Holder et Emmanuelle Olivier, Centre national de la recherche scientifique – Islamic Pop Music au Mali : Logiques et technologiques de l'économie morale
  • Emir Mahieddin, Université d’Aix-Marseille – Ce que la musique dit des mœurs. Morale et poétique de la circulation musicale dans le pentecôtisme global

11:00-11:20 : Break – Foyer Claude-Champagne

11:20-12:20 : Keynote Lecture

David Irving, Australian National University – David, the Psalms, and Ontologies of Music from Western Europe to Southeast Asia, 1550–1850

12:20-1:30 : Lunch – Foyer Claude-Champagne

1:30-3:30 : Panel : Evangelizing through music: hymns, missions, and missionaries

Session chair: Anne Damon-Guillot

  • Enrique Pilco Paz, Université de Montréal – Les péripéties du plain chant dans les Andes du XVIe au XXe siècle
  • François Picard, Université Paris-Sorbonne – Les cahiers de musique, témoins de la mémoire des associations de musique catholiques de Pékin
  • Joanna Heath, Durham University – Sankey's Sacred Songs and Solos and Mizo Christianity in Northeast India
  • Frances Wilkins, University of Aberdeen – Southern Gospel in North-East Scotland: The Necessity for Change and the Lasting Impact of Moody and Sankey

3:30-3:50 : Break – Foyer Claude-Champagne

3:50-5:50 : Panel : Analyzing the circulation and the transformation of religious music

Session chair: Serena Facci

  • Thomas Hochradner, University of Music and Dramatic Arts Mozarteum Salzburg – A Christmas Carol's Course into the World. "Silent Night" as an Example of Transnationalization
  • Susan Thomson, University of Massachusetts – From Chaitre Parve to YouTube: Hinduism, Transnationalism, and Seraikela Chhau Dance
  • David Stowe, Michigan State University – History, Memory, and Forgetting in Psalm 137
  • Salim Dada, Université Paris-Sorbonne – Al-ādhân : une pluri-identité mouvante dans les sociétés musulmanes contemporaines

Saturday, October 18th

8:00-9:00 : Welcome and Registration

9:00-10:30 : Panel : Musical life journeys, events, and fieldwork

Session chair: Monika Salzbrunn

  • Alice Degorce, Institut de recherche pour le Développement – Du rap à l'évangélisation : parole transnationale et parcours de vie d'un bishop de Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
  • Jeanne Rey, University of Toronto Scarborough – Répertoires musicaux et processus d'identification collective : réflexions à partir de trois événements religieux (Toronto, Genève, Accra)
  • Debora Baldelli, Universidade Nova de Lisboa – Musical Practice of Hare Krishna devotees in Portugal: Transnational Religious Identity in the making

10:30-10:50 : Break – Foyer Claude-Champagne

10:50-12:20 : Panel : The invention of identities and imagined communities through music

Session chair: Enrique Pilco

  • Teresita Lozano, University of Colorado Boulder – “It's A Coptic Thing”: Music, Liturgy, and Transnational Religious Identity in an American Coptic Community
  • Alice Aterianus-Owanga, Centre de Recherches et d’études anthropologiques – Transnationaliser le bwiti au rythme du rap gabonais : invention de traditions et métaphorisation religieuse
  • Anne Damon-Guillot, Université Jean Monnet de Saint-Étienne – Isolement et résistance du chant alla turca de l'Église apostolique arménienne d'Istanbul

12:20-1:30 : Lunch – Foyer Claude-Champagne

1:30-2:30 : Panel : The Internet, cyber-fieldwork, and musico-religious networks

Session chair: Frédéric Dejean

Hugo Ferran, Université de Montréal – “Rate This MezmuR”. Ethnographie d'un groupe de discussion Facebook sur les musiques évangéliques éthiopiennes

Kamran Hooshmand, University of Texas at Austin – Digital Tears: Shajarian's Rabbena Prayer and its Virtual Transnationalization

2:30-2:50 : Break – Foyer Claude-Champagne

2:50-4:20 : Panel : Musical migration, diaspora, and multiculturalism

Session chair: David Irving

  • Stephen Muir, University of Leeds – East European Synagogue Music in the Cape of Good Hope: Music, Memory and Migration in the Transnational Experiences of Two Jewish Cantor-Composers
  • Gabriella Djerrahian, McGill University – Expanding the Shades of “Black Music”: Young Ethiopian Israelis and the Transnational Circulation of Ethiopian Music
  • Serena Facci, Università degli Studi di Roma “Tor Vergata” – Voices from a holy city: Christian liturgical music in today’s Rome

4:20-4:40 : Break – Foyer Claude-Champagne

4:40-5:40 : Recital-talk – B-484

Judith Cohen, York University –Singing over Time and Space: Music in Sephardic and Crypto-Jewish Life

7:00-10:00 : Dinner

Le Café des beaux-arts (1384 Sherbrooke Ouest)


  • Faculté de musique de Montréal - 200, Vincent-d’Indy
    Montreal, Canada


  • Thursday, October 16, 2014
  • Friday, October 17, 2014
  • Saturday, October 18, 2014


  • transnationalisation, religion, musique,


  • Caroline Marcoux-Gendron
    courriel : Chaire [dot] Fernand-Dumont [at] inrs [dot] ca

Information source

  • Caroline Marcoux-Gendron
    courriel : Chaire [dot] Fernand-Dumont [at] inrs [dot] ca


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« The Transnationalization of Religion through Music », Conference, symposium, Calenda, Published on Friday, September 19, 2014, https://calenda.org/300249

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