Oral Presentation Session
Invited by: Music and Sound Interest Group
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Cities
Secondary Theme: Policy
The past twenty years have been particularly stimulating for social scientists interested in sound. With the publication of several edited volumes and a dedicated journal, the field of sound studies has built substantial academic momentum. Contributions to the field have shown special interest in the materiality of sound (re)production, opening lines of inquiry at the intersections of space, technology, and auditory practices. Scholars have questioned the premise that music and speech are the only meaningful sounds of a given culture. For instance, they have examined how notions of “noise” can help us understand the values, anxieties, and predispositions of a given community. They also have questioned vision-centric accounts and sensory determinisms (e.g., seeing is objective and external vs. hearing is subjective and internal). Notwithstanding the growing research about how groups classify and assess different sounds, analysis of the role of the state in this process has been scarce. This is particularly true outside the Western context. For instance, whereas authors researching Europe and the United States have provided historical accounts of noise control in the cities, those interested in non-Western sounds have tended to privilege the performance context of certain music genres (samba, tango, cumbia, etc.), leaving unexplored non-musical sounds and the influence of local governments over such sounds.
This panel considers the intersections of sound, postcolonialism, modernity, science & technology, ethnography, law, and citizenship in Brazil, Taiwan, and India. We argue that, if sound exists in a continuum between the unnoticeable and the unbearable (at times “music,” at other times “noise”), investigating how precisely the state “hears” and orders this continuum into stabilized units can highlight important issues of governance. These include spatial segregation, racial and religious prejudice, technological determinism, and ethical-related debates on taste. In presenting case studies of acoustic dissent generated by religious rituals in Mumbai, piano playing in Taipei, funk carioca parties in Rio de Janeiro, and acoustic surveillance in Brazil, the panel proposes to elucidate how sounds and communities constitute each other through the state.