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History Compass 11/4 (2013): 305315, 10.1111/hic3.

12048

Coming to our Senses: Historicizing Sound and Noise in


the Middle East
Ziad Fahmy*
Cornell University

Abstract

This speculative essay is a call for further research and the beginning of a long overdue conversation among historians of the Middle East about the importance of sounds and soundscapes in
studying history. In the process, I will suggest some research strategies for uncovering the sounds
and noises of the past especially before the introduction of recording technologies. All the while,
I hope to encourage more multidisciplinary conversations by Middle East historians with other
scholarly disciplines that examine sound and listening.

Introduction
In the afternoon of Wednesday February 2, 2011, after a frontal assault by government
hired thugs (baltagiyya) on camel and horseback failed, the Egyptian protestors immediately set out to defend Tahrir Square. Make shift walls and barricades were pounded into
shape using metal street cordons and bent metal sheets. To supply much needed rocks for
projectiles, the protestors set out breaking sidewalks and pavements with hammers and
metal rods.1 Due to the vastness of the square with its multiple entrances, a plan was put
into place to sound-out the need for reinforcements from one side of the square to the
other. One of the protestors, Ghareeb Soliman, explained: We created this secret code
so that if protesters in any of the battles felt they needed reinforcements, they would bang
on the wall and we would send them a group to help them.2 To garner courage and
keep their spirits high all through the night and to perhaps signal their defiance to the
attacking baltagiyya the barricaded protestors rhythmically beat metal objects on railings
and metal sheets. With only some brief breaks in between, the fighting continued well
into the next day. The sonic component of the battle also resumed: At 9 a.m. came
Thursdays first battle cry. It began with a rhythmic banging sound, as one man beat a
pipe against the metal pole at the entrance to Cairos underground train station. Then
another joined in, banging a rock against a lamppost. And then dozens of men began
whistling through their teeth, calling men to battle as they waved their hands, gesturing
for hundreds to come forward.3 These are just a fraction of the many significant sounds
and noises of the ongoing Egyptian rebellion and they are vital to grasping the full
significance and impact of the revolt. Admittedly, it can be quite easy for scholars to
access sounds and videos from the Arab Spring (YouTube alone has several thousands of
movie clips). But how do historians working on earlier periods, before sound recording,
reconstruct other vital soundscapes and sonic experiences?
In the last decade, historians have finally started listening to the past, and contributing to what has been called by some, a sensorial revolution in the humanities and
social sciences.4 Scholars of the senses have come to the realization that in the same
way that all five senses are relevant to our daily understanding of the world around us,
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306 Coming to our Senses

they should also be pertinent in our attempts to understand the past. By interpreting
how peoples of the past sensorially experienced their world, a richer, more holistic
grasp of historical events is possible. Simply put, a historical narrative that incorporates
available sensory data is an embodied history, more convincingly connected to everyday
people and to historical social realities.5 Historians of American and European history
have propelled sound studies to the vanguard of sensory history.6 Mark Smith, one of
the leaders in this latest wave of aural and sound history, triumphantly declared that
historians today are listening to the past with an intensity, frequency, keenness, and
acuity unprecedented in scope and magnitude. Once focused on just the history of
music and musicology, historians of aurality now consider sound in all its variety.7
Historians of the Middle East, however, have yet to join this auditory revolution, and
with few exceptions, are still largely producing soundproof, devocalized narratives of
the past.
In order to pursue a more sounded approach to history, historians can learn from other
disciplines that have already made progress integrating auditory techniques. Anthropologists, along with other media studies scholars, are leading the way in a recent explosion
of media studies works on the contemporary Middle East. Dozens of studies covering
contemporary satellite television, movies, music and sound recording have been published
in the last decade and a half.8 Though most of these works do not address sounds and
soundscapes directly, by virtue of their subject matter, they all deal with a scholarly
examination of sounded sources. Works on various forms of Arab media by Charles Hirschkind, Andrew Shryock, Ted Swedenburg, Lila Abu Lughod, Marwan Kraidy, Flag
Miller, and Walter Armbrust are conceptually useful for historians. Engaging with and
inspired by the burgeoning literature in sensory and aural studies, Hirschkinds The Ethical
Soundscape (2006) is a particularly good starting point for future studies on historical Middle Eastern soundscapes.9 However, most anthropologists and media studies scholars deal
with contemporary societies, and hence are able to personally listen to the sounds and
soundscapes they are studying. Historians do not have that luxury; we must use different
strategies to cull and tease-out sound from mostly textual sources.
The purpose of this essay is threefold. As the title suggests, I hope to begin a long
overdue conversation among historians of the Middle East about the importance of
uncovering and researching sounds and soundscapes of the past. In the process, I will give
a variety of examples demonstrating the importance of sound in studying history. Secondly, I will suggest some research strategies for uncovering the noises and sounds of the
past, especially before the introduction of recording technologies. Finally, I hope to
encourage more multidisciplinary conversations by Middle East historians with sound and
sensory scholars. There is much to be discovered if we incorporate sounds and soundscapes as part of our methodological toolkit for understanding the past. While this article
is not meant to be comprehensive, it serves as a starting point for a more concerted effort
by historians of the Middle East to take sounds and soundscapes into account when writing their histories of the region. First, before we can begin our discussion, we must
briefly address a host of common misconceptions about the nature of sound as well as
some of our visual biases.
OVERCOMING OCULARCENTRISM

The modern sensorium remains more intricate and uneven, its perceptual disciplines and experiential modes more diffuse and heterogeneous, than the discourses of Western visuality and ocularcentrism allow. This is true of the religious dimensions of the sensorium, but it is also true of
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Coming to our Senses 307

its Enlightenment valences, even that notorious source of scopic dominion, seventeenth- and
eighteenth-century natural philosophy.10
Leigh Eric Schmidt, Hearing Things

Ocularcentrism, as popularized by Walter Ong and Marshall McLuhans great divide


theory, reifies sight and visualism at the apex of a sensory hierarchy, explaining what is
deemed as the detached, objective superiority of Western modernity, while contrasting
this to more primitive oral and illiterate cultures. In Understanding Media, for example,
McLuhan describes the inability of oral and intuitive oriental culture to meet with the
rational, visual European patterns of experience. In Gutengurgs Galaxy, this line of
thinking takes on an even more extreme binary: there can be no greater contradiction
or clash in human cultures than that between those representing the eye and the ear.11
This approach has prompted many scholars to characterize Muslim and Arab culture as
having an exceptionally oral aural nature, with an unquestioned oral lineage that is traced
back to early Islam. However, to generalize about how different cultures or civilizations
are more intuitive, or have better ears, or are more visual and objective than others is
misguided at best. It may be true that Islamic and Arab culture have important aural
dimensions, but so do all other religions and cultures.12 It is overly simplistic to declare
that some cultures are more aural or visual than others, which is not only problematic,
but more often than not mistaken. Leigh Eric Schmidts, Hearing Things for example,
expertly discusses the importance of aurality and listening in evangelical 18th and 19th
century America, demonstrating in part the futility of ranking societies along some arbitrary visual auditory scale.13 Indeed, there are no objective measures for such broad generalizations, and as is often the case, arguments for cultural exceptionalism are hardly ever
fruitful and usually end up essentializing and obfuscating more than explaining and revealing any worthwhile truths.
As more recent studies of orality aurality in Western contexts have revealed, listening
and orality are just as important in European and American contexts, and the supposed
shift to a visual centric modernity is exaggerated. In the last decade alone, several scholars
from various disciplines have credibly contested these dualistic ocularcentric views.14
When scholars closely examined diverse early modern and modern societies, they discovered that hearing and sound remained critical to the elaboration of modernity. As
Mark Smith explains in his most recent work on sensory history, Virtually all the evidence produced by the historians of aurality and hearing of the modern era points to the
continued importance of hearing and, implicitly at least, heavily discounts the effect print
had on diluting aurality in favor of sight.15 This is especially true with the advent of
sound technologies, from phonographs and telephones at the turn of the 20th century, to
MP3 players and iPhones at the beginning of the 21st century.
In the same way that we should avoid positioning societies along an arbitrary sensory
scale, we should refrain from ranking the senses. Indeed, the whole notion of classifying
the senses along some objectivity continuum is an exercise in futility. There are no tools,
in the tool kit of humanists and social scientists at least, that could categorize which one
of our senses is more factual or objective. Despite evidence to the contrary, it is striking
how visuality has become so ingrained as the objective, scientific sense. The easy way
that a practiced magician can trick the eyes of most observers, or the many studies by
criminal justice scholars and legal psychologists on the unreliability of eyewitness testimony is reason enough for a healthy dose of skepticism with regards to the supposed
objectivity of the eye. Perhaps it is best then to leave such broad pronouncements about
the sensory objectivity of eyes vs. ears to neuroscientists and cognitive philosophers.

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308 Coming to our Senses

Yet this does not mean that historians should avoid analyzing how peoples of the past
categorized or ranked the senses. Some of the most fruitful work on the history of the
senses is comparativist and historicizes the changing ways that past societies perceived and
classified their own sensory universe. Elites, be they native or colonial, frequently used a
sensory vocabulary to categorize and marginalize the masses in an arbitrary sensory scale.
Common people, for example, were often sonically marginalized by elites as noisy and
vulgarly boisterous.
Perhaps, instead of horizontally comparing sensorial civilizational differences that
may exist between different cultures, it would be more useful to vertically historicize and
explore perceived sensorial differences within societies as they become more literate. In
other words, is there a shift in the sensory balance of societies from a more aural to a
more visual hierarchy as mass literacy is achieved?
TEXTS AND SOUNDS: AN EARWITNESS TO HISTORY?

One problem that came up immediately when I set out to write sonic history was the belief
that, unlike a document, sound is ephemeral, going out of existence even as it happens. This
comparison is misleading, if not mistaken.16
Richard Cullen Rath

For recent events, like the ongoing Arab Spring, or even historical events occurring in
the second half of the 20th century, actual sound and audiovisual recordings are available
for examination. But what can we do for earlier historical periods? What is a historian
who is interested in the sounds and soundscapes of 17th century Ottoman Empire to do?
How are we supposed to fill in this sensory gap when writing about historical periods
before the advent of recording technology? The obvious answer to these questions is
found in the very same texts that historians have been using throughout, or as R. Murray
Schaffer has stated in several of his works on sound, historians will have to turn to earwitness accounts from the historical record.17 Not only have we as historians been deaf
when examining sources, but we automatically assume that the primary texts we are reading were written by authors who were also deaf and mute. Just because we visually read
the texts (silently) in the libraries and archives, does not mean that the writers were
exclusively depicting visual observations in their writings. People absorb information,
be it physical or cultural, from their immediate environment using all five integrated
senses. Lest we forget, the physical act of writing is as much tactile as it is visual, and the
information being conveyed will inevitably be multisensory.
Historians often have no problem accepting the visual observations made within archival texts and other written sources, yet written documentation of sounds and noise are
either neglected or assumed to be less accurate than visual observations.18 Part of the
problem, as referenced above by Richard Cullen Rath, is the mistaken belief that unlike
visual observation, sound and hearing is especially ephemeral dissipating into thin air as
soon as it is sounded. But arent all of our sensory perceptions fleeting, including the
supposedly objective and scientific sense of vision? A writer can only document the
memories of what they may have heard, seen, smelled, touched, or tasted. All of these
sensory impressions, including the visual, are in this sense ephemeral and are recalled and
written down after those events have taken place. This is true, even if historical chroniclers have pen in hand, ready to instantaneously document an event, since all sensory
recollections are processed cerebrally before being recalled and selectively reconstructed
via ink on the page. Also, these visual written impressions, it is oft forgotten, are phys-

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Coming to our Senses 309

ically and tactilely reproduced by the hand as it manipulates a keyboard or a writing


implement on the page making touch as important as vision in the writing process
itself. By attuning ourselves to the written accounts of sounds within historical or literary
texts, we can inevitably see, or rather hear, the perspective the original author conveys
regarding the sounds, noises, and words that they may have heard. Moreover, writers do
not just record what they have seen and heard depending on the events they are covering and the context of the document they are writing they can also detail olfactory,
tactile and gustatory information.19
I suspect that almost all historical documents may contain relevant sensory information,
from government and colonial records, police and intelligence reports, to newspapers,
memoirs, and travel literature. Travel memoirs and writings are bound to contain a rich
amount of multisensory references. For a traveler, pilgrim or tourist, when unfamiliar
sounds, sights, tastes, sensations and smells are encountered, they are certain to leave
enough of an impression to be written down. Of course, historians must be cautious of
these impressions and take into account the inevitable generalizations and stereotypes
drawn by travelers experiencing unfamiliar cultures. Cases from sharia and civil courts
and police records should also contain plenty of information about sound, noise and
aurality, from rumors and hearsay heard by spies and police informants, to noise complaints filed by angry neighbors. Such inquiry opens up many questions about historicizing noise in the Middle East. How and in what ways did noise in both rural and
urban areas change over time especially after the introduction of louder technologies,
such as phonographs, radios, trams, automobiles, and even industrial noises? When did
anti-noise regulations begin to be legislated in the urban centers of the Middle East?
What noises where considered undesirable and what noises were desirable? To what
extent where these laws actually enforced? What are the class implications of these laws?
Are they, as I suspect, heavily biased against the lower and working classes? A comparative examination of noise legislation in the 19th and 20th century could reveal a great
deal about the changing sounds of modernity, and possibly even, Middle Eastern societys
evolving sonic sensibilities as they developed over time.
MOVING BEYOND TEXTS: UNCOVERING SOUNDSCAPES AND ACOUSTICS OF THE PAST

Sound is not as ephemeral as we might first think. Thunder presumably sounds much the same
today as it did three or four centuries ago. Bells toll for the most part the same notes Acoustic spaces designed to reverberate a particular way centuries ago still do so today.20
Richard Cullen Rath, Hearing American History

As Alain Corbin has shown in his classic study, Village Bells (1998), the sounds and acoustics of the past can be easily recovered and used to uncover everyday cultural and
social realities. His study on the uses and importance of village bells in 19th century
French society can serve as a model for future studies on the impact of the Muslim call
to prayer (adhan) in Islamic society. For over a millennium, the most defining sound in
the soundscape of a Muslim community is the call to prayer. More than any other sound,
the adhan embodies and defines the religious community by virtually setting an acoustic
border for the worshipers living within its sonic range. Aside from its obvious religious
purpose, summoning pious Muslims to prayer, the adhan also functioned as an acoustic
clock, synchronizing and dividing up time for the entire community, Muslim and nonMuslim alike. The historical and cultural implications of the call to prayer beg yet more
important questions. Were calls from the minarets used for other functions other than the

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310 Coming to our Senses

call to prayer? How did that change over time? Did the Muadhins from Morocco to Iran
develop different regional styles? How did different communities throughout the Middle
East react to the eventual introduction of loud speakers as the preferred method for the
call to prayer? What where the acoustic implications of this?21 How did the religious
scholarly community justify the use of loudspeakers in legal Islamic terms? How controversial was this transition? These are just some of the questions that need to be asked
about the acoustical and socio-cultural functions of the adhan.22
Aside from the sounds of the call to prayer emanating outwards from the minarets,
what about the acoustical qualities inside of congregational mosques and churches? Before
loudspeakers became prevalent in modern society, acoustical design was critical to any
large congregational building. Indeed, recent acoustical studies by architectural historians
and acoustical engineers have shown the relatively great acoustical properties of several
medieval mosques and churches. Cultural and social historians now have a growing number of these technical acoustical studies, which can prove very useful in examining the
acoustical space of historic mosques and churches throughout the Middle East. Some of
those studies examine the acoustic strength, cognition and speech intelligibility of lectures, khutbas, and prayers not just in congregational mosques but in the madrassas that
are a part of some of these complexes.23 Even the acoustical effects of carpets and the
sonic absorption characteristics of Muslim worshipers as they stand, bow, prostrate and
sit in rows has been measured.24
Pious and other religious sounds, whether from minarets or mosque and church pulpits, are just one among dozens of everyday sounds in any Middle Eastern town or city.
To put this in perspective, Ali Pasha Mubaraks late 19th century survey of Cairo
counted over one thousand coffee shops compared to just 264 mosques.25 Coffee shops
in the Middle East almost always extend outdoors onto the sidewalks and streets. Except
in the coldest winter days, most of the clientele sat outside with obvious sonic implications to the wider neighborhood. As newer, louder technologies like gramophones, radios
and television sets were introduced, the acoustic imprints of coffee shops must have also
dramatically increased.26 An examination of urban and architectural acoustics can be very
valuable to social and cultural historians in a variety of ways, as masterfully demonstrated
by Emily Thompson in The Soundscape of Modernity (2002).27 How did the soundscapes
of Middle Eastern cities change as their urban morphology was transformed in the last
couple of centuries? The acoustics of wider streets and large squares are different than the
small alleys of the older more traditional urban areas. As the streets were converted from
packed earth to paved cobble stone and asphalt, the sounds of animal and wheeled traffic
also changed. With tramways, trains and the steady increase in automobile traffic in the
20th century, the sounds and the decibel levels of the cities and towns of the Middle East
were also transformed. Each historic time and locale has its varied natural, animal, and
human sounds that play an important role in defining the place to its inhabitants. These
sounds and noises have an assortment of economic, environmental, social, and cultural
implications, which are vital for a more well-rounded historical understanding of the past.
Conclusion: Towards a Multisensory History
There are many more historical dimensions to be discovered if we are open to considering sound as a serious inquiry in understanding the past. Sound historian Jonathan Sterne
accurately declared that there is always more than one map for a territory, and sound
provides a particular path through history.28 With few recent exceptions, historians of
the Middle East have yet to fully explore that path, making the past seem silent, devocal 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

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Coming to our Senses 311

ized, and one-dimensional.29 By calling for the incorporation of sound, noise, and aurality in writing the histories of the Middle East, I am not suggesting the neglect of the
visual; or for that matter, any of the other senses. I do not propose that listening and
sound are more important than the observed and the visual, yet if we are to ever give a
more balanced reflection (or more aptly, echo) of the past, we must open our ears as well
as our eyes. In order to begin this process, we must look beyond our discipline towards
anthropology, ethnomusicology and as I have shown above, even architectural and
acoustic engineering.30 By finding and interpreting new auditory data, historians can add
new sensory dimensions to their historical analysis, transforming how we understand the
past.
Historical sources are rich with sonic accounts. The question is, can we as historians
capture or take account of these changing sounds and weave them through our historical narratives? This essay, and the growing field of sound studies, emphatically answers
this question in the affirmative. By being sensitive to and documenting all sensory data,
and not just the visual, historians of the Middle East can only improve the depth and
complexity of their historical narratives. For as scholars of sensory history have come to
realize, an understanding of the daily experiences of everyday people, be they contemporary or historical, cannot be attained solely through a visual lens. Uncovering past sounds
and soundscapes brings us a lot closer to comprehending the peoples of the past on their
own terms.
Acknowledgement
This paper is in part a product of the intellectual engagements and friendships forged over
a yearlong (20112012) fellowship at Cornell Universitys Society for the Humanities,
where appropriately the focal theme was Sound: Culture, Theory, Practice, Politics.
Tim Murray and all of the other fellows from a variety of academic disciplines helped me
think about sound differently and encouraged me to historicize sounds and soundscapes
in my future scholarship. In particular I would like to thank Jennifer Stover-Ackerman
and Kaila Bussert for reading drafts of this article. I also would like to thank Paul Sedra
and the two anonymous referees for their helpful comments and suggestions throughout
the publication process.
Short Biography
Ziad Fahmy is an Assistant Professor of Modern Middle East History at the department
of Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University. Professor Fahmy received his History
Ph.D. in 2007 from the University of Arizona, where his dissertation Popularizing
Egyptian Nationalism was awarded the Malcolm H. Kerr Dissertation Award (2008)
from the Middle East Studies Association. His first book, Ordinary Egyptians: Creating
the Modern Nation through Popular Culture (Stanford University Press, 2011), examines
how, from the 1870s until the eve of the 1919 revolution, popular media and culture
provided ordinary Egyptians with a framework to construct and negotiate a modern
national identity. Professor Fahmy is currently beginning another book project tentatively
titled Listening to the Nation: Sound, Noise, and Soundscapes in Inter-Revolutionary Egypt,
19191952.

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312 Coming to our Senses

Notes
* Correspondence: Department of Near Eastern Studies, Cornell University, 416 White Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853,
USA. Email: zaf3@cornell.edu.
1

Y. Fathi, Egypts Battle of the Camel: The Day the Tide Turned, Ahram Online, 2 February 2012. [Online].
Retrieved on 4 May 2012 from: http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/33470.aspx
2
Fathi, Egypts Battle of the Camel. [Online]. http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/33470.aspx
3
V. Walt, The Fighting Rages On in Tahrir Square, Time Magazine, 3 February 2011. [Online]. Retrieved on
10 May 2012 from: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2045943,00.html
4
D. Howes, The Sixth Sense Reader (London: Berg Publishers, 2009), 35; M. Bull et al., Introducing Sensory
Studies, Senses and Society, 1 (2006): 57.
5
For example, see P. C. Hoffer, Sensory Worlds in Early America (Baltimore, 2003); C. A. Jones, Eyesight Alone:
Clement Greenbergs Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005); R.
Horowitz, Putting Meat on the American Table: Taste, Technology, Transformation (Baltimore, 2006); M. M. Smith,
How Race Is Made: Slavery Segregation, and the Senses (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006); A.
Corbin, The Foul and the Fragrant: Odor and the French Social Imagination (Harvard University Press, 1988).
6
For example, see L. Schmidt, Hearing Things: Religion, Illusion, and the American Enlightenment (Cambridge, Mass.,
2000); P. C. Hoffer, Sensory Worlds in Early America (Baltimore, 2003); R. C. Rath, Hearing American History,
The Journal of American History, 95 2 (2008): 41731. A. Corbin, Village Bells: Sound and Meaning in the 19th-Century
French Countryside, Trans. Martin Thom (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998); B. Smith, The Acoustic
World of Early Modern England: Attending to the O-Factor (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999); M. M. Smith,
Listening to the Heard Worlds of Antebellum America, Journal of the Historical Society, 1 (2000): 6599; M. M.
Smith, Listening to Nineteenth-Century America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001); M. M.
Smith, (ed.), Hearing History: A Reader (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2004); and R. C. Rath, How Early
America Sounded (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003); E. Thompson, The Soundscape of Modernity: Architectural
Acoustics and the Culture of Listening in America, 19001930 (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002).
7
M. M. Smith, Introduction: Onward to Audible Pasts, in M. M. Smith (ed.), Hearing History: A Reader, (Athens:
University of Georgia Press, 2004), ix.
8
For a more detailed examination of some of the latest anthropological and media studies work on the modern
Arab World, see M. Zayani, Toward a Cultural Anthropology of Arab Media: Reflections on the Codification of
Everyday Life, History and Anthropology, 22 1 (2012): 3756; and W. Armbrust, Audiovisual Media and History of
the Middle East, in A. Singer and I. Gershoni (eds.), History and Historiographies of the Modern Middle East, (Seattle,
WA: University of Washington Press, 2006), 288312.
9
C. Hirschkind, The Ethical Soundscape: Cassette Sermons and Islamic Counterpublics (New York: Columbia University
Press, 2006).
10
Schmidt, Hearing Things, 22.
11
M. McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964), 5; M. McLuhan,
The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (Toronto: University of Toronto Press: 1962), 68. For an
excellent critique and analysis of Ong and McLuhans theories see, Schmidt, Hearing Things, 122.
12
For examples of some important anthropological and historical studies on orality in Islamic and Arab cultures
see, B. Messick, The Calligraphic State: Textual Domination and History in a Muslim Society (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1992); K. Nelson, The Art of Reciting the Quran (Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press,
2001); D. F. Reynolds, Heroic Poets, Poetic Heroes: The Ethnography of Performance in an Arabic Oral Epic Tradition
(Cornell University Press, 1995); J. Pedersen, The Arabic Book (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983); G.
Schoeler, The Genesis of Literature in Islam: From the Aural to the Read (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press,
2009).
13
Schmidt, Hearing Things.
14
For example, see Corbin, Village Bells; Corbin, Time, Desire, and Horror; Schmidt, Hearing Things; Smith, Sensing
the Past; and Hirschkind, Ethical Soundscape; J. Sterne, The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003)
15
Smith, Sensing the Past, 48.
16
Rath, Hearing American History, 417.
17
R. M. Schaffer, The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World (Vermont: Destiny Books,
1994 [1977]), 8.
18
I would argue that it is not a conscious neglect, but we are conditioned to elevate the visual above the other
senses. Perhaps because historians are by definition highly literate, we intuitively privilege a more visual and silent
understanding of reading and knowledge acquisition.
19
For one of the few articles on olfactory history by a historian of the Middle East see: K. Fahmy, An Olfactory
Tale of Two Cities: Cairo in the Nineteenth Century, in J. Edwards (ed.), Historians in Cairo: Essays in Honor of
George Scanlon, (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2002), 15587.

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Coming to our Senses 313


20

Rath, Hearing American History, 417.


A recent study by Naveeda Khan, an anthropologist of South Asia, does an excellent job of examining the cultural impact of the adhans change to loud speakers in 1950s Pakistan. More studies like this one are needed by historians of the Middle East. See, Naveeda Khan, The Acoustics of Muslim Striving: Loudspeaker Use in Ritual
Practice in Pakistan, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 53 (2011): 57194. In another recent article, ethnomusicologist Eve McPherson in part compares the pitch, melody and vocal style of the call to prayer in Turkey
with that in Syria and Egypt. E. McPherson, Political History and Embodied Identity- Discourse in the Turkish
Call to Prayer, Music & Politics, 5 1 (2011): 1013.
22
For an excellent examination of the mandated use of the call to prayer in Turkish instead of Arabic in 1930s
Turkey, see E. McPherson, Political History and Embodied Identity- Discourse in the Turkish Call to Prayer.
23
For example, see A. El-khateeb and M. Ismail, Sounds From the Past: The Acoustics of Sultan Hassan Mosque
and Madrassa, Building Acoustics, 14 2 (2007): 10932; Z. Sua and S. Yilmazerb, The Acoustical Characteristics of
the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara, Turkey, Architectural Science Review, 51 1 (2008): 2130; N. Ergin, The Soundscape of Sixteenth-Century Istanbul Mosques: Architecture and Quran Recital, Journal of the Society of Architectural
Historians, 6 2 (2008): 20421; R. N. Hammad, RASTI Measurements of Mosques in Amman, Jordan, Applied
Acoustics, 30, (1990): 33545; A. A. Abdou, Measurement of acoustical characteristics of mosques in Saudi Arabia,
The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 113 3 (2003): 150517; M. Galindo, T. Zamarreno, and S. Giron,
Acoustic Analysis in Mudejar-Gothic Churches: Experimental Results, The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 117 5 (2005): 287388.
24
D. J. Oldham and A. Elkhateeb, The Absorption Characteristics of Muslim Worshippers, Building Acoustics,
15 4 (2008): 33548.
25
A. Mubarak, al-Khitat al-Tawfiqiyya, 7 vols. (Cairo: Matbaat Dar al-Kutub wa al-Wathaiq al-Qawmiyya, 2005),
vol. 1, 218, 238.
26
For an examination of the role of cafes and aurality in early 20th century Egyptian society see Z. Fahmy, Ordinary Egyptians: Creating the modern Nation through Popular Culture (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011), 14547.
27
E. Thompson, The Soundscape of Modernity: Architectural Acoustics and the Culture of Listening in America, 1900
1930 (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002).
28
J. Sterne, The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003), 3.
29
See for example, Fahmy, Ordinary Egyptians; A. Stanton, A Little Radio is a Dangerous Thing: State Broadcasting in Mandate Palestine, 19361949, Ph.D. diss. (Columbia University, 2007); and G. C. Woodall, Sensing the
City: Sound, Movement, and the Night in 1920s Istanbul, Ph.D. diss. (New York University, 2008).
30
For example see the works of ethnomusicologists like Virginia Danielson, Jihad Racy, Fredric Lagrange, Michael
Frishkopf, Richard Jankowsky and Martin Stokes.
21

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