Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Stephen Blum

Committee Members

Jane Sugarman

Peter Manuel

Jonathan Shannon

Subject Categories

Ethnomusicology | Islamic Studies | Near Eastern Languages and Societies | South and Southeast Asian Languages and Societies


Persian/Arabian Gulf, Baloch/Balochistan, transnationalism, Indian Ocean, spirit possession, music of West Asia


This dissertation is a study of Baloch musical—and ritual—idioms as cultivated (and variously innovated, embellished, patronized, and reconstructed) in the relatively prosperous and cosmopolitan urban environments of the coastal Eastern Arabian Peninsula—the third major concentration of Baloch population after Balochistan and Karachi. Due to historical and geographic particulars, the origins of Peninsular Baloch communities lie primarily in the Makran region that extends along the Arabian Sea coast and across the political boundary separating Iran and Pakistan. If musical activities play a significant role in orienting Baloch communities socially and politically, what are the presentational strategies implied in the foregrounding of specific performance genres and how do social dynamics structure the relationships between performers, patrons, connoisseurs, poets, and publics? Relying on data from a series of fieldwork residencies from 2014-2017 in Oman, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar, I give close attention to the internal diversity in values, outlooks, and expressive domains found within Baloch communities as well as to relationships between Baloch and the other cultural groups that contribute to the demographic make-up of the region.

In addition to its focus on musical genres and aesthetics, this is a multidimensional study of intellectual and literary activity. As cultural activism, the patronage and promotion of musical idioms is central to preserving and amplifying a traditionalist cultural consciousness as well as to framing impassioned contemporary political expression. This dissertation contributes to extant studies of Makrani Baloch music and culture and speaks to a growing interest in the political and ethnographic character of Baloch society in the Gulf states, adding an in-depth study of cultural performance to the handful of survey articles by distinguished scholars (Jahani 2014, Peterson 2013, al-Ameeri 2003). This work also contributes substantially to ethnomusicological scholarship on the Persian Gulf region as a complex and highly interactive sphere of culture and can be counted as one of many projects that address flows of culture that intersect in different ways across the Indian Ocean.