Research Dossiers

Lost in participative obervation? - Music and gesture in the rituals of “possession” or shamanism

The article starts out by clearly distinguishing shamanism and possession. The shaman enters into trance voluntarily and is considered to be a ‘musicker’. On the other hand, the possessed passively experiences the trance and is said to be ‘musicked’. Music plays a considerable role among the elements of the system of the ritual. Indeed, the musical instrument becomes a tool which provides rhythm to rituals, due to its inherent scenography and the emotional and sensitive charact5eristics that derive from it. The set of these features encourages individuals to enter into trance. In a social context, music provokes different reactions according to the people’s culture. Music and dance enable to explore unexpected and diverse territories of the human “supernature”.

Music and gesture in the rituals of “possession” or shamanism

Reading this book calls for a reflection on gesture and sound in the relationship to spirits. In particular, it leads to giving serious consideration to the issue of “authenticity”, notably concerning the behavior called “trance”: researchers do not always interrogate the use of this word. I will here develop a commentary in four points. First, I will highlight the figures of the shaman and the possessed, and the terms “musicker” [musiquant in the French-language original] and “musicked” [musiqué in the original] a taxonomy borrowed from Gilbert Rouget, in the course of the study of a Siberian case. Then I will examine the respective roles of the gesture and the word as ways of representing the spirits, which will thirdly lead me on to discuss the issue of syncretism and the adaptation of the rituals to social and religious changes. Finally, I will question the need to “go into trance” and to seek “authenticity” in the behavior, on the one hand, and in the facts of shamanism and possession[1] on the other.

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The Struggle for Armenian Culture and identity

A1We have chosen here to introduce the specificity of an ancient culture, too often overlooked because of its tragic historical context. Today, we are indeed witnessing the return to life of a little-known culture and country.

The sociological notion of identity has to do with a person's self-conception, social presentation, and more generally, the aspects of a person that make them unique, or qualitatively different from others. Identity can also be manifested in the bloodline, land, language, history, culture and religion.

At the end of Antiquity, the Middle East was indeed shared between different territorially-disputed Empires: notably the Persian, the Byzantine and the Armenian. Our purpose here will be to explain the checkered destiny of the latter, and the construction of it culture through different ages and in different localities.

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Muslim Women and the Veiling Fashion Industry in Turkey

Fashion shoot for Âlâ magazine in Istanbul (Turkey)  Fashion shoot for Âlâ magazine in Istanbul (Turkey)

Abstract : Since the 80’s, Muslim veiled women became more and more visible in the Turkish public space. A new way to claim their belonging both to Islam and Fashion appeared with what has been called the Tesuttür fashion. Understand the mechanisms of Veiling Fashion industry leads us to rethink Turkish modernity issues and to capture the diversity of its social practices. A careful consideration to the industrial fields mobilized by the producers as well as the resources developed by the Muslim consumers is necessary to analyze the success of this industry.

Keywords : Turkey, Islam, modernity, veiling, fashion, neoliberalism, industry, consumption, communication

Résumé : Depuis les années 1980 la visibilité de femmes musulmanes voilées s’est accrue au sein de l’espace public turc. Une nouvelle façon de revendiquer à la fois son appartenance à la religion musulmane et à la sphère de la mode est ainsi apparue avec ce que l’on appelle la mode Tesuttür. Comprendre l’industrie de la mode du foulard islamique permet de repenser les enjeux de la modernité turque et d’y saisir la diversité des pratiques sociales. Analyser le succès de cette industrie nécessite donc d’accorder une attention particulière aux domaines industriels mobilisés par les producteurs et aux ressources mises en œuvre par les consommatrices musulmanes. 

Mots-clés : Turquie, islam, modernité, foulard, fashion, néolibéralisme, industrie, consommation, communication

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Religion and Philosophy: Jürgen Habermas’ Take on Religion

Photo4257Few German philosophers of the post-war area have managed to gain an international notoriety rivalling that of Jürgen Habermas. His thinking has informed many of the major debates in various fields during the last decennia. Aiming at a critical reconstruction of the emancipatory potential of Modernity, Habermas’ collected works guides its reader through the history of modern thought from the enlightenment to social theory, from idealism to pragmatism and linguistics. His appropriation of the various contents of our intellectual tradition has led Habermas to an all-encompassing theory of modernity and its immanent potentials.

The Emancipatory Potential of Communication

If we may still retain hope after two world wars accompanied by historically unprecedented degrees of horror, it is due to our being endowed with language and our capacity for rational discourse. This conception of man as a political animal endowed with reason and speech (λογος) goes back to Aristotle’s definition of the citizen of the polis. But Habermas pushes things further when he insists on the intersubjective basis of the exercise of reason. Man’s judgment becomes sound thanks to exchange and consultation with his fellow citizens. Accordingly, the state should do everything it can to foster reasonable discourse concerning political affairs.

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Research Dossier:Updating Religion and Philosophy, General Introduction


Historically, all the great world religions have been intrinsically linked to philosophical thought. In our research dossier we shall attempt to gain some insights into the philosophical and sociological analysis of religion by recent thinkers. In order to do so, we have chosen to present four very different approaches within the field in order to provide an overall impression of the diversity of contemporary discourse revolving around religion. So we here we shall be focusing on accounts of 1) a theory of myth,2) modern Islamic theology, 3) French sociology of religion and last but not least 4) an analysis of the  place of religion within modern democracies.

In our first article we show how Hans Blumenberg, one of the most eminent German philosophers of the second half of the 20th century, tackled the problem of myth. According to Blumenberg, the function of myth resides in its power to overcome man’s fear facing the ‘absolutism of reality’. By giving names to the different aspects of reality and by assigning different powers to different gods, man domesticates his environment by integrating it into his lifeworld.  Interaction with the world becomes possible through its differentiation into multiple aspects. This process of the ‘depotentialisation’ of the absolute is an ever ongoing process and the work on myth as a work on our way of relating to reality is followed up  by Blumenberg throughout the  intellectual history of the Occident in an amazing manner.

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Cover up in style: hijabistas, between faith and high fashion ...

Hijab 1

Abstract: Depuis quelques années, principalement dans les pays de culture anglo-saxonne, nombreuses sont les bloggeuses de mode musulmanes qui se sont fait une place dans l’univers très riche de la blogosphère :comme leurs homologues occidentales, elles publient des photographies de leurs tenues à travers des billets d’humeur, mais ont pour particularité de revendiquer leur culture musulmane, notamment à travers le port du hijab. Entre mode et religion, retour sur ce phénomène qui peut surprendre, mais qui montre avant tout la volonté de moderniser l’image de la femme musulmane dans une société où le port du voile est régulièrement perçu comme un signe d’infériorité du genre féminin.


Hijab style, hijabistas: between faith and high fashion

 Over the last few years, new fashion bloggers have been appearing in the blogosphere: hijabistas - Muslim fashion addicts and bloggers. Like their western homologues, they are trendy and post pictures of their outfits on their blogs. The only difference is the fact that they wear the hijab and that their clothes respect the norms of decency. More than a sign of faith, here the hijab is a trendy accessory, mingling the sphere of Islam with that of fashion and the consumer society. How is this phenomenon to be apprehended? Are we talking about a depravation of the hijab or of the proof that there is no incompatibility between faith and fashion?

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Dossier Mode et Religion - Dolce & Gabbana, quand la religion devient synonyme de glamour

Dolce and Gabanna last fashion show (women’s collection fall/winter 2013) stirred together  the provocative and glamorous aspects of fashion and the mystical iconography of the Monreale cathedral (Palermo, Sicily). Religious and respectful homage or impish provocation? This event allows us to raise many inquiries and reflections about these two systems, which finally have many common points.

Le duo formé par le sicilien Domenico Dolce et le milanais Stefano Gabbana, connu par tous dans l’univers de la mode et de la couture de luxe, s’est illustré lors de ses derniers défilés par la présentation de collections surprenantes, mêlant chic et élégance aux motifs parfois austères, parfois étincelants, de l’imagerie religieuse traditionnelle italienne. Retour et interrogation sur un phénomène en vogue et pourtant encore trop peu étudié dans les milieux de la recherche universitaire : les rapports malicieux de la mode et de la religion.

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Art and Politics: towards a post-utopian, participative paradigm

They did not know it was impossible: so they did it.

FAce2Face JRFace2Face,

JR, 2007

  JR is a young French street artist, born in Paris, in 1983. Nobody knows about his real name: his initials, J and R, are the only clue he uses in signing his performances. Since the late 1950s, the number of street artists has grown exponentially. However, JR’s art is different. It may be said to be the ideal blend of graffiti, now perfectly integrated into landscape of the common city, and the power of Ernest Pignon-Ernest’s drawings deposed on pavements and monuments, catching the walker’s eye in order to remind him of the darkest hours of recent History (Deportation, the criminalization of abortion, civil war, and exile). JR’s creations are based on the same paradigm: huge black and white, always highly expressive, portraits pasted on urban walls, originally illegally but JR now having reached fame, occasionally officially authorized, even patronized. There are several aims to his infiltrative art: forcing walkers into confrontation with art (even if - above all if - they might not readily have taken the step of going into a gallery to appreciate artistic creations of their own initiative), creating a feeling of surprise, fear or laughter. Thus placing them artificially face to face with people they would ordinarily ignore or stigmatize.

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Dossier (1): Qu’est-ce que le multiculturalisme ? Différents aspects de la reconnaissance (Partie II)

PadaniaEn poursuivant notre discussion antérieure (Partie I), la conception de cultures comme comprenant des expressions, des ressources et des pratiques, est d’abord l’objet d’une pensée sociale, et ensuite un cadre de politiques publiques. Pour les partisans de politiques du multiculturalisme comme Charles Taylor, « nous n’accordons de reconnaissance légitime qu’à ce qui est universellement présent - chacun a une identité - et ce par la reconnaissance de ce qui est particulier à chacun. L’exigence universelle promeut la reconnaissance de la spécificité. » Cette position doit être éclairée en détaillant ce qu’est le multiculturalisme sur des aspects récurrents tels que l’ethnie (ou la « race »), la religion, et les inégalités d’ordre économique et urbain.

Read more: Dossier (1): Qu’est-ce que le multiculturalisme ? Différents aspects de la reconnaissance (Partie...