Susannah Knights (KCL) - 2017-18 Students
Musical Experience and the Formation of Social Groups in Tunis’ City Centre
This study is concerned with the sensory experience and categorisation of music in the diverse urban spaces which make up the city-centre of Tunis. It aims to build on our understanding of the social and political changes underway since the Tunisian revolution of 2011, and of the significance of music within these shifts. I propose a dual investigation: to study what the aural, social, and spatial delineation of different musical worlds can reveal about the political and social shifts in Tunis during this transition phase; and to examine the emotional aspect of the musical experience and its role in the formation of different identities and social groups. The project attempts to build on previous analyses of the revolution from within the social sciences (Dakhlia, Honwana) by using qualitative ethnographic field-work to study the processes through which musical and social categories are formed. It is in this way that the identification of musics as “Western”, “Tunisian”, or “Arab” may be questioned, and the signification of “professional” or “amateur” in this context may be interrogated. My approach will aim to identify the precise aspects of the musical experience which may lead to judgement, formation of social groups, and power hierarchies.