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Listening Communities

The research project has underlined that Islamic sermons have been shaped by transcultural factors throughout their history, and have impacted on transcultural processes as decisively as nearly no other genre has. They lie at the heart of today’s biggest transnational Muslim movements and many of them are broadcasted via new media. Shifts in Islam, such as those between its reformist and Sufic dimensions, lead to and are led by reconfigurations of sermons and their rhetoric. The same is true for transcultural entanglements, be they through media, lay preachers or school networks. A detailed analysis of sermon theory and practice with a focus on aural dimensions has yielded important insights.

The focus on sermon theory has allowed for different insights within the production of Islamic sermons. These include the domains of argumentation, elocution, as well as important aspects of performance. In this way, sermon theory has been linked to different fields of scholarly research, such as argumentation theory, poetic theory and performance theory. From a transcultural perspective different characteristics have been explained on the basis of preceding traditions, without, however, overemphasizing this aspect, as by now rhetorical theory is often entangled. Also, rhetorical theory has proven to be in some cases the place of discussions about accepting the allegedly “foreign.”

The practice of sermons is decisively shaped by the specific sub-genre. Some genres of Islamic sermons have proven to feature a transculturally rather ‘stable’ practice while other genres vary considerably. Even new forms of sermonizing such as TV-sermons are not simply spread globally but often build on prior configurations of genres in the respective local context. Furthermore, the relation between sermon theory and practice proved to vary considerably. Not least, the inquiry into practice revealed aspects not reflected in theoretical discussions. The project built on theoretical discussions in the fields of aesthetics, emotions, performance and ritual.