Salvatore Morra

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis examines various identities of the Tunisian musical instrument ʻūd ʻarbī within the context of mālūf urban music. I consider how the ʻūd ʻarbī inhabits and performs several aspects of cultural and national identity formations in modern Tunisia (1830-present), highlighting the diverse ways in which the instrument is constructed, transmitted and performed. I argue that the ways in which several types of social actors, including players, luthiers and mālūf aficionados, shape the identity of the instrument can be considered through Herzfeld’s (1997) theory of cultural intimacy.
In combining techniques such as interviews, analysis of texts and artefacts in workshops of luthers, in musical instrument museums (London, Brussels, Tunis), in domestic and public performances, as well as the examination of various visual representations of the instrument, I locate the Tunisian ʻūd ʻarbī in a web that provides ways of engaging with its "hidden" identities. I analyse how cultural intimacy (Herzfeld, 1997 [2005]) contributes and animates the life of the Tunisian ʻūd. I argue that it acts mainly as an identity metaphor and nostalgic sentiment (i.e. illustrating the Andalusian paradigm of loss and nostalgia); a dynamic association of sounds and other phenomena (namely in the calls for a Tunisian ʻūd timbre); and a craftsmanship of tradition (e.g. wood, shapes and their marking of identity). Drawing on theories and methods from ethnomusicology (Bates 2012; Dawe 2001), anthropology (Herzfeld 1997 [2005]; Boym 2001), and material culture (Woodward 2007; Miller, 2005), my thesis contributes an ethnographic and music-centered approach to interdisciplinary debates about post-colonial nationalism, public intimacy and cultural identity.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Beckles Willson, Rachel, Supervisor
Award date1 Jun 2019
Publication statusUnpublished - 2018


  • musical instrument, revival, tunisia, material culture,

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