La passion du tragique

Paroles mélodisées chez les Yézidis d’Arménie

Type de publication

Defended on 9th of November 2010 at University Paris Ouest-La Défense (LESC-CREM CNRS UMR 7186). Supervised by Prof. Raymond Jamous.

This doctoral thesis in anthropology was awarded the highest distinction by French academic conventions ("Mention très honorable avec les félicitations du jury à l'unanimité"). Jury: Prof. Christine Allison (University of Exeter), Prof. Raymond Jamous (CNRS), Dr. Jean Lambert (Muséum d'histoire naturelle), Dr. Rosalia Martinez (University Paris 8), and Prof. Claire Mouradian (CNRS).


This dissertation is about melodised speech among the Yezidis in Armenia. On the dividing line between music and language, this specific sound register, which the Yezidis call "words on" (kilamê ser), is linked to feelings of sadness. It consists primarily of spoken words, melodised in ritual contexts (such as the funerals) but also in daily life conversations. The term is also used to describe the play of the duduk (oboe). This way of using sounds is of particular interest for the Yezidis, and although they do not consider it as "music", it is not rare to find kilamê ser recorded on tapes and compact disks on the local markets.

The analysis of the formal and performative characteristics of the kilamê ser shows how this specific use of speech constructs a sonic space where emotions are shared. It serves as a linchpin for Yezidi conceptions of exile, sacrifice, heroism and mourning. Beyond individual catharsis, melodised words transform absence into presence, and integrate death to the life of the community.

The argument developed in the text is illustrated by a large corpus of field documents presented on a multimedia DVD.

Research project
Yezidi laments
On vocality and the narration of loss amongst the Yezidis in Armenia, 2006 - 2014