A Sound Ethnography

Muir, Pauline. 2019. A Sound Ethnography. Studies in World Christianity, ISSN 1354-9901 [Article] (Forthcoming)

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Abstract or Description

Congregational music and verbal utterances are germane to the liturgical practices of World Christianity. However, despite this significance, methodologies that give primacy to the visual are often privileged. This essay argues for an emphasis on sound in the data collection process, recognizing that while both the visual and the aural are critical elements in the communication exchange, an emphasis on sound can reveal data unavailable elsewhere and uncover a cauldron of ambiguities, contradictions and contentions. Using a model of music discourse (Nattiez:1990) and data drawn from an ethnographic study within the context of a neo-Pentecostal African megachurch in the United Kingdom, the function and character of congregational singing and the use of chanted confessions as a signifying practice are analysed. The findings reveal struggle and adaptation highlighting both resistance and assimilation in the sonic field. The essay concludes that paying attention to the sonic representations in congregations may prove to be a fruitful site of inquiry for scholars of World Christianity.

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Additional Information:

This is an Author’s Accepted Manuscript of an article due to be published by Edinburgh University Press in Studies in World Christianity. The Version of Record will be available online at: https://www.euppublishing.com/loi/swc


Music, methodology, neo-Pentecostal, congregational singing, confessions, prosperity gospel, mega-church, identity

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Institute for Cultural and Creative Entrepreneurship (ICCE)


31 October 2019Accepted

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Date Deposited:

11 Dec 2019 15:57

Last Modified:

16 Jun 2021 19:48

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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