Entanglements of Race, Sound and the Archive: Coloniality and the Globalised Present
Organisers: Carolyn Birdsall, Anette Hoffmann. Confirmed speakers: Alejandra Bronfman (University at Albany), Jennifer Stoever (Binghamton University)
Sonic practices and their racialised heritage serve as a departure point for this workshop, which explores the entanglements of race with sound, concepts of voice, and the colonial archive. Performing an archival analysis across multiple media forms and genres, Jennifer Lynn Stoever (2016) has shown how US racial ideologies, identities and violence are intimately bound up with sound and listening practices. Her analysis foregrounds constructions of race in and through aural practice; it also attends to African American interventions in the white “listening ear” and how black subjects have listened to sounds of black agency. From the vantage of the present, this study underscores the persistent legacies of racialised vocal registers and modes of listening. Analysing the voice, as Alejandra Bronfman (2016) notes, requires further sensitivity to its paradoxical qualities: voice is often treated as equivalent to political presence and participation, yet it is actually connected to a particular human body, and thus positioned, gendered and racialised. Her work on sonic media in the Caribbean complicates the performativity and resonance of black voiced poetry, song and speech, mediated through radio and resonating in a politicised public sphere, as well as the mobilising effect of language enacted in the specific intonation and prosody of Kreyòl.
Our attention to connections between race, sound and the archive seeks to intervene in the field of sound studies that is largely Eurocentric in its orientation, yet has often represented itself as universal, rarely acknowledging its positionality. In response, we ask:
- How do acoustic epistemologies as well as academic constructions of sonic presence/absence relate to a shared cultural archive, to intellectual histories and specific archives of coloniality?
- In what ways can practices of listening help us to account for positionalities and historical continuities?
- How can research on sonic phenomena and the enactment of voice add to our understanding of racialised auditory perception?
- How can we strategically include a critique of historical sonic practices of representation and perception into discussions about the globalised present?
This two-day workshop brings together an interdisciplinary group invested in theoretically-informed, connective histories about modern aurality, race and archival dynamics. With the workshop we seek to facilitate a conversation in the Netherlands and to start building an international network for critical, decolonial research on sound cultural histories and archival practices.
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