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Research Colloquium: Thomas Hodgson (University of Oxford)

February 23 @ 5:15 pm - 7:00 pm


Thomas Hodgson (University of Oxford). The Saif ul-Malook: Memories of Migration in Kashmiri Sung Poetry

If you are a university member, please sign up using this form by 4pm on the day. If you are a non-University member, please email ella.marshall-shepherd@sjc.ox.ac.uk.


The sociology of memory often situates the idea of “collective memory” (Halbwachs 1992) within more-or-less clearly defined cultural worlds. Yet this framing becomes much messier when seen through the lens of migration. In practice, migrants understand their experience of living in multicultural societies in ways that cut across historical as well as cultural spheres. In this paper, I explore the performance and patronage of the Saif ul-Malook, a collection of poetry written by the nineteenth-century Sufi, Mian Muhammad Bakhsh. Often described by Kashmiris as the ‘Rumi of Kashmir’, I situate its story in relation to the movement of people and culture between Pakistan and Britain, particularly since World War II; movements marked by shifting flows of money, power and control. Drawing on fieldwork conducted between 2009 – 2018 among musicians at the poet’s shrine in Khari Sharif, Azad Kashmir, and in various performance contexts in Bradford, England, I consider how the story of the Saif-ul-Malook – and its performance – relates to Kashmiris’ understanding of migration, across multiple generations. These everyday performances of the Saif ul-Malook produce memories that traverse generational and cultural spheres, revealing how the “lived past experiences” (Schwartz 1996; Zerubavel 1996) of first-generation migrants come to inform the world-view of those born within a destination country. At a moment in which populist anxieties about a “migrant crisis” are increasingly shaping political decisions, understanding how these collective memories of migration are produced is, arguably, more important now than ever.


Tom is an ethnomusicologist who studies algorithms and AI in the global south. He is currently writing a book – Journeys of Love: Kashmiris, Music, and the Poetics of Migration – which explores questions of value and exchange among musicians in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and the Kashmiri diaspora. Tom teaches in the music faculty here at Oxford having previously held positions at King’s College London, first with a British Academy postdoc and then as a lecturer in ethnomusicology. He is also a practicing musician, having recorded and toured extensively around the world with the Oxford indie-folk band Stornoway. Along with the band’s bassist, Oli Steadman, he went on to establish the music tech platform Tigmus (This is Good Music), which uses data and analytics to match artists with venues.

About the series:

The Colloquia feature leading figures, as well as younger scholars, from across the world. They present their research in papers on all kinds of music-related topics. Graduate students Ella Marshall-Shepherd and Dylan Price organise the series. Presentations are followed by a discussion and virtual drinks reception. Free and open to all Music Faculty students and members. Please email ella.marshall-shepherd@sjc.ox.ac.uk to sign up for the colloquium.


February 23
5:15 pm - 7:00 pm
Event Category:


Faculty of Music
01865 (2)76133