Charles Hirschkind

Charles Hirschkind's picture
Associate Professor
Undergraduate Faculty Advisor for Social Anthropology, Socio-Cultural House Head
Special Interests: 
Religion, anthropology of the senses, media theory, language and performance, Islam and the Middle East.
Research: 

My research interests concern religious practice, media technologies, and emergent forms of political community in the Middle East, North America, and Europe. Taking contemporary developments within the traditions of Islam as my primary focus, I have explored how various religious practices and institutions have been revised and renewed both by modern norms of social and political life, and by the styles of consumption and culture linked to global mass media practices. My first book, The Ethical Soundscape: Cassette Sermons and Islamic Counterpublics (Columbia 2006), explores how a popular Islamic media form-the cassette sermon-has profoundly transformed the political geography of the Middle East over the last three decades. Based on a year and a half of field research, my study examines how sermon tapes have provided one of the means by which Islamic ethical traditions have been recalibrated to a modern political and technological order, to its noise, forms of pleasure and boredom, but also to its political incitements, its call to citizen participation. Focusing on popular neighborhoods of Cairo, my analysis highlights the pivotal role these tapes now play in an expanding arena of Islamic argumentation and debate-what I call an "Islamic counterpublic." This emergent public arena connects Islamic traditions of ethical discipline to practices of deliberation about the common good, the duties of Muslims as national citizens, and the challenges faced by diverse Muslim communities around the globe.

Profile: 

My research interests concern religious practice, media technologies, and emergent forms of political community in the Middle East, North America, and Europe. Taking contemporary developments within the traditions of Islam as my primary focus, I have explored how various religious practices and institutions have been revised and renewed both by modern norms of social and political life, and by the styles of consumption and culture linked to global mass media practices. My first book, The Ethical Soundscape: Cassette Sermons and Islamic Counterpublics (Columbia 2006), explores how a popular Islamic media form-the cassette sermon-has profoundly transformed the political geography of the Middle East over the last three decades. Based on a year and a half of field research, my study examines how sermon tapes have provided one of the means by which Islamic ethical traditions have been recalibrated to a modern political and technological order, to its noise, forms of pleasure and boredom, but also to its political incitements, its call to citizen participation. Focusing on popular neighborhoods of Cairo, my analysis highlights the pivotal role these tapes now play in an expanding arena of Islamic argumentation and debate-what I call an "Islamic counterpublic." This emergent public arena connects Islamic traditions of ethical discipline to practices of deliberation about the common good, the duties of Muslims as national citizens, and the challenges faced by diverse Muslim communities around the globe.

My second project is a study of the different ways in which Europe's Islamic past inhabits its present, unsettling contemporary efforts to secure Europe's Christian civilizational identity. Taking southern Spain as my focus, I analyze the social and political processes that mediate and sustain an active relation to Europe's Islamic heritage, and the potential impact these processes have on forms of cooperation and responsibility linking Muslim immigrants, Spanish converts, and Andalusian Catholics as subjects of Europe.

Office: 
113 Kroeber
Office Hours: 
Mon 1-3pm
Representative Publications: 

2006. "The Ethical Soundscape: Cassette Sermons and Islamic Counterpublics." New York: Columbia University Press.

Awarded the 2007-2008 Sharon Stephens First Book Prize from the American Ethnological Society and a Clifford Geertz Prize "Honorable Mention" from the Society for the Anthropology of Religion. 

2005. "Powers of the Secular Modern: Talal Asad and his Interlocutors "(Charles Hirschkind and David Scott, eds.) Stanford: Stanford University Press.

2004. "Hearing Modernity: Egypt, Islam, and the Pious Ear." In V. Erlmann, ed., Hearing Cultures: Sound, Listening, and Modernity. New York: Berg Publishers.

2002. "Feminism, the Taliban, and the Politics of Counterinsurgency." Anthropological Quarterly, 75(2):339-354.

2001. "The Ethics of Listening: Cassette-Sermon Audition in Contemporary Cairo." American Ethnologist 28(3):623-649.

2001. "Religious Reason and Civic Virtue: An Islamic Counter-Public." Cultural Anthropology 16(1):3-34.

1995. "Heresy or Hermeneutics: The Case of Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd." Stanford Humanities Review 5(1):35-49.

1991. "Egypt at the Exhibition': Reflections on the Optics of Colonialism" A review of Timothy Mitchell's Colonizing Egypt (1988) In Critique of Anthropology, 11(3): 279-298) London: SAGE.

Books