This talk will focus on the sonic dimensions of religious life and place-making in Mumbai, and its connections to a “right to the city” for people facing a precarious future. Muslim traders were among the original inhabitants of Bombay and played a crucial role in its rise to the imperial hub of the Indian Ocean, and finally a global city. In present-day Mumbai however, the great majority of Muslims are in very marginal positions, having been subject to violence as well as socio-economic exclusion and ghettoization. For the staging of claims to the city, public religious rituals and processions have long played very important roles in Mumbai. For Twelver Shi‘ite Muslims, they have constituted a chief means of marking certain areas as “Shia” and thus defending their right to be in and belong to the city in the face of an uncertain future. While soundscape is an established concept for the investigation of the sonic aspects of urban place-making, including its religious dimensions, Eisenlohr argues that an analytic of atmospheres is better suited to capture the powerful emotive dimensions of place-making through sonic performances. As an example, this talk addresses ritual performances and processions among Twelver Shi‘ite Muslims during the Islamic month of Muharram.
Patrick Eisenlohr is Professor of Anthropology, Chair of Society and Culture in Modern India at the University of Göttingen. He obtained a PhD from the University of Chicago and previously held positions at Washington University in St. Louis, New York University, and Utrecht University. He is the author of Little India: Diaspora, Time and Ethnolinguistic Belonging in Hindu Mauritius (2006), and Sounding Islam: Voice, Media, and Sonic Atmospheres in an Indian Ocean World (2018). He has conducted research on transnational Hindu and Muslim networks in the Indian Ocean region, particularly between Mauritius and India, the relationships between religion, language, and media, the sonic dimensions of religion, the links between media practices and citizenship, as well as language and diaspora.