2019-2020 Penn Colloquium Series: Richard Jankowsky

Richard Jankowsky
Mar 3, 2020 at - | Lerner 102 Music Department



The Department of Music’s main Colloquium Series showcases new research by leading scholars across the fields of musicology, ethnomusicology, music theory, and composition both in the United States and internationally.  Music Colloquia take place on Tuesdays at 5:15 in Lerner Center, Room 102.  The Lerner Center is located at  201 S. 34th Street, Philadelphia Pa, 19104-6313. See here for the full calendar of the 2019-2020 Colloquia Series.

Richard Jankowsky

Chair of the Department of Music and Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at Tufts University


Ambient Sufism: Ritual Journeys and Musical Potencies in North Africa

Across North Africa, music does not merely accompany devotional and healing rituals; rather, such rituals showcase music’s power to act. Ethnographic study of the ritual musical practices of “intoxicated” Sufis, Jews, black Tunisians, women healers, and hard-drinking laborers reveals a set of Sufi musical potencies revolving around timbre, intensification, and musical form that circulate among these ritual niches, applied in ways that assert commonality while establishing difference. In this talk, I focus on strategies of temporal transformation cultivated by the ‘Īsāwiyya Sufi order of Tunis and offer a model of intensification that accounts for the musical “journey” (riḥla) of the ritualized trance experience. 



Richard Jankowsky, Ph.D., received his BA in Anthropology and Music from Tufts University and his Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from the University of Chicago. Prior to his appointment to the Department of Music at Tufts University in 2006, he was on the faculty of the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, England.

Through fieldwork-based methods, Professor Jankowsky's research revolves around the intersection of music and power in North Africa, particularly music's capacity to heal, to maintain and narrate histories of underrepresented populations, to articulate religious sentiment, and to serve as a flashpoint for debates over cultural, religious, and political identities. His music analytical work explores issues of repetition, density, and transformation in contemporary trance rituals. His book Stambeli: Music, Trance, and Alterity in Tunisia, received three honorable mention awards for book prizes from academic societies in the fields of anthropology, ethnomusicology, and North African Studies. He is the recipient of fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Institute for Maghrib Studies, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and Fulbright/IIE. Jankowsky is on leave in academic year 2017-18 as a National Endowment for the Humanities Faculty Fellow to complete his book Ambient Sufism: Devotional Pluralism and Music as Everyday Mysticism in North Africa.


Event Series
Penn Music Colloquium Series