A Meshwork of Melodies: Des-making Through the Singing and Wayfaring of Shah Abdul Latif’s Devotees

In: Philological Encounters
Pei-ling Huang Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica Taipei Taiwan

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This article imagines a conception of Sindh that rejects the bounded ethnolinguistic region created through colonial-modern philology and administration. I explore affective geographies produced through singing, storytelling, and traveling in relation to the poetry of Sufi mystic Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai (1689–1752) by his past and present devotees, drawing on the idea of region as a meshwork of movements created through lived lines of wayfaring, to borrow a concept from Tim Ingold. Focusing on the melodic chapters of verses (Surs) in Shah Jo Rāg, a repertoire for singing Latif’s poetry by specialist devotees (rāgī faqīrs), I reconstruct two kinds of movement. First, traces of historical movement from less-acknowledged Surs in Shah Jo Rāg and the Ganj, an early manuscript. Second, contemporary movements inspired by Surs based on two popular romances, from the narratives of Latif’s devotees. These movements reveal processes of des-making: creating entanglements to a relational and cumulative des (“land, country”).

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