2013, Thu, May 02

Sounds of Virtue and Vice

Acoustic Worldmaking in Contemporary Cairo

The sermons of religious preachers sold on tapes, as MP3 files or on CDs are ubiquitous in the Cairo of today. How do they change the city? In his lecture, the anthropologist Charles Hirschkind investigates the production of these sounds and the aural tradition in Islam. He asks how Muslim cassette preachers continue this tradition today and how they are used to create Islamic forms of socialization.

Following the lecture, Charles Hirschkind discusses the topic with Werner Schiffauer, Professor of Comparative Cultural and Social Anthropology at the European University Viadrina.

The lecture and discussion are the public part of an internal workshop taking place in connection with the project global prayers – redemption and liberation in the city. Berlin-based academics and scientists are invited to the workshop to address the significance of the religious for the permanent (re)production of the urban space.


Charles Hirschkind is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California (Berkeley) and is currently Research Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. The main focus of his research is on religious practice, media technology and new forms of political community in the urban spaces of the Middle East and Europe. In his book, The Ethical Soundscape: Cassette Sermons and Islamic Counterpublics (Columbia University Press, 2006), he explores how fundamentally the popular format of the cassette sermon has altered the political geography of the Middle East in the last 30 years. For a complete biography of Charles Hirschkind (English)

Werner Schiffauer is Professor for Comparative Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Europa-Universität Viadrina. He has worked on the transformation of rural and urban Turkey, on labour migration, the organization of diversity in European Societies and recently on Islam in Europe.



Initiated in 2009 by metroZones, global prayers is being conducted in cooperation with the Haus der Kulturen der Welt and the European University Viadrina. global prayers – redemption and liberation in the city is a research project at the Forum Transregionale Studien. As one of the Forum’s projects, global prayers receives most of its funding from the Land Berlin.