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Seminars 2017

2017 seminar sessions

The seminars at this year's conference present an opportunity for delegates to engage with one of the guest speakers in a small, graduate-style discussion.

  • Readings will be distributed ahead of time so that participants are able to come prepared for small group discussion.
  • On the booking form, you will be asked to select your first, second, and third choice for seminars.
  • To keep the groups small, we will be limiting seminar participation to one seminar per delegate. We will make every effort to accommodate your indicated interests. You are not required to attend a seminar.
  • Seminars will run concurrently in Tuesday morning or afternoon sessions. 


Morning sessions:


Nancy Ammerman, Boston University: Studying Lived Religion, Studying Music: Learning Across Disciplines [seminar full]

In the social sciences and practical theology, 'lived religion' has emerged as a lens for understanding the embodied, material, gendered religious practices of everyday life. While musical expression has been an occasional topic, it seems ripe for further thinking and research.  What might those who study musical experience and practice teach us?


Bissera Pentcheva, Stanford University: Transcendent Visions: Voice and Icon in Hagia Sophia 

Hagia Sophia enveloped the faithful in its immense interior covered in reflective marble and glittering gold mosaics. The moving light of sunrays and flickering oil-lamps imbued these rich surfaces with liveliness. Synergistically human breath expelled in chant activated the reverberant response of the building, immersing the faithful in a paradoxical non-intimate but resonant surround sound. The aural dominated; human voice engendering icons of sound remained a powerful agency working on the Byzantine imaginary. The Great Church had no figural representations until 867 when the mosaic of the Virgin and Child was set in the apse. Yet, the scale of the building dwarfed the figural, reducing its emotional impact. In contrast to the monumental décor, small portable icons appearing on luxury materials channeled intimate encounters of the liturgical visions. Some of these images responded to the new body of poetry created in the ninth and tenth centuries, which unlike the standard psalmody chanted in the cathedral liturgy, could engage the faithful directly in the emotional intensity of the performed events. Among these hymn-writers was emperor Leo VI (886-912), who composed text and music and directed the elite choir of Hagia Sophia to chant his works. 


How does the singing voice engender visions of the divine; how does an image-less interior foster this process through the energy of light and reverberation; and how do portable icons inflect these visionary experiences? These are the questions the paper addresses by focusing on Hagia Sophia’s interior, emperor Leo’s hymn for the Holy Passion, and an ivory of the Crucifixion.


Zoe Sherinian, University of Oklahoma: Film screening - Sakthi Vibrations

This documentary reveals how two progressive Indian Catholic nuns reclaim the polluted drum of the outcastes/Dalits to empower young female dropouts at the Sakthi Folk Cultural Centre in Southern India. The growing embodied self-confidence displayed in the girl’s drumming and dance performance over the course of a year’s training is matched only by their refined skills in tailoring, basket weaving, and successful completion of their high school exams. The Sakthi struggle is an intersectional campaign of personal and community transformation against gender, class, and caste oppression fought with the liberating tools of music and dance. When Sakthi dances, the earth trembles with change. 


As an ethnomusicological documentary, this serves as a model for outcaste/untouchable women’s development that integrates folk arts performance with social analysis, micro-economic sustainability, self-esteem and community development. It demonstrates the agency and strategies of Dalit women as they create social justice for themselves through personal, community, and economic development. The film also shows the use of daily rituals through song that include the veneration of a Trinity of indigenized Christian elements: Mother Earth Goddess, the teacher, and the drum (as Holy Spirit). Finally, Sakthi Vibrations includes an imbedded participatory video that the Sakthi students scripted and shot themselves, actively defining their process of growth over the year and collaboratively contributing to this film. 



Afternoon sessions: 


Sylvia A. Nannyonga-Tamusuza, Makerere University: Girls and Women’s Music and Dance - Constructing, Performing and Crossing Gendered Boundaries among the Baganda of Uganda

In this seminar, we will examine how through history music and dance have provided a space for constructing, performing and crossing gendered boundaries among the Baganda of Uganda. We shall look at how children and girls’ music is used to socialize girls into becoming women and how once adults, these women use music and dance to articulate their constructed gender. Further, we shall see how in contemporary times, music and dance have become sites for contesting and challenging the Baganda’s traditional patriarchal values.  


Jeffrey A. Summit, Tufts University: Delicious Peace: Coffee, Music and Interfaith Harmony in Uganda

Uganda has a history of ethnic and religious divisions that intensified during the brutal dictatorship of Idi Amin in the 1970s. Yet in the 1990s, the Abayudaya (Jewish people) of Uganda set out to build productive, respectful relationships with their Muslim and Christian neighbors. Muslim, Jewish and Christian farmers joined together to form the Peace Kawomera (Delicious Peace) Fair Trade Coffee Cooperative.  Coffee farmers compose music in a variety of local styles to educate about the benefits of Fair Trade and to encourage cooperation across religious boundaries. Jeffrey A. Summit examines this music, the impact of their efforts on behalf of economic justice and inter-religious cooperation as well as the challenges facing the researcher when engaged in social justice and advocacy projects.


Bettina Varwig, King’s College London: Early Modern Singing Bodies

In this seminar, we will explore methods and problems of reconstructing a historical phenomenology of congregational singing in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Lutheran worship. We will consider Reformation hymnody as a multimodal corporeal practice that can offer unique insights into particular historical modes of being-in-the-body. More broadly, the aim of the session will be to highlight the importance of attending to the historically and culturally situated conceptions of the body and bodily experience that underpin any account of congregational musicking. To this end, we will discuss a range of primary source materials in light of current debates around early modern bodiliness, Reformation ritual and affect theory.


Abigail Wood, University of Haifa: Congregational music in contemporary Judaism

In this workshop we will explore, via texts, recordings and some practical examples, how Jews think about prayer and the role of music in congregational prayers, and how this is reflected in contemporary musical practices in both Orthodox and non-Orthodox traditions.