Radical History Review: Sound Politics
Sound Politics: Critically Listening to Local and Global Soundscapes (Radical History Review, Number 121)
Call for Proposals, due March 15, 2013
The history of sound is saturated with political meaning and significance. Military and political authorities have historically mobilized sonic techniques and technologies in aggressive and violent confrontations with perceived enemies and foreign threats. Musicians, singers, activists, youth groups, and demonstrators have expressed their dissent, not only in words, but in sonic expressions and articulations, which complement, amplify, and ultimately exceed discursive modes of communication and which create solidarities, mark opposition, and manifest resistance. Meanwhile, the state has expanded its claims to regulate and discipline sound and noise in the name of public health, social order, and communal welfare. Of course, the politics of sound are not limited to the audible; silence also operates as a tool of social discipline, political repression, and cultural homogenization in the hands of political elites and authorities, while among political activists and organizers, moments of silence can serve as powerful acts of memory, recognition, and critical reflection.
Sound and its modulations are a primary, if understudied, tool of communication and expression, forging relationships and inspiring collective action across spatial boundaries. Aside from communicative content, the very form of sound itself can be disruptive, since it can transgress borders, barricades, and blockades. So, too, can sound, in the form of sound cannons or sirens, be deployed to maintain order, to police, to punish and torture. The same set of sounds can be heard differently according to the listeners’ particular contexts and social positions. Thus, a political march’s noise can be, for participants, inspiring and empowering. For its critics, it might be called savage, revolutionary, or wild. Labeling certain sounds as noise or particular neighborhoods as noisy often serves as an implicit or explicit signifier of differences and distinctions based on race, ethnicity, gender, and class. Indeed, sound can act as a sensual and visceral marker of such distinctions. In turn, noise abatement campaigns, whether driven informally within a community or formally by the state, produce and reinforce hierarchies of inclusion and exclusion, power and privilege. And within the field of sonic politics, important insights, arguments, and debates around deafness and disability have emerged to destabilize the privilege and assumptions of the hearing population, inherently calling into question some basic assumptions in the emerging academic field of “sound studies.”
This thematic issue of Radical History Review invites scholars working on all historical periods to imagine the political implications of the audial, the aural, hearing and listening, as well as of silence and deafness. Our original intervention in this burgeoning intellectual arena centers on thinking about the politics of sound in its trans-regional, trans-national, and “glocal” (global/local) contexts. How have audial technologies and creative techniques of sound production, reproduction, and recording generated opportunities for the expression of dissent, critique, and resistance? What are the politics of noise? Of laughter? Of music? Of speech, deafness, and voice? Of silence? Does sound’s ephemeral quality limit its uses as political expression, or does sound’s movement across confined and demarcated physical spaces and conventional borders make it distinctively useful for articulating and projecting political opposition? How has sound censorship controlled or limited dissent? How have sound, and its representations, become part of social contestations over the public sphere? How have differences and hierarchies of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and class been constituted sonically? And to what extent can we think critically and historically about such questions in contexts that emphasize the trans-national and cross-cultural dimensions of sound and soundscapes?
Possible themes we would like to explore in this volume include the following:
• Technologies of sound production, reproduction, transmission, and recording.
• Sound and noise as spatial, social, and political transgression.
• The politics of music, song, and voice.
• Deafness and the politics of disability.
• Colonial, anti-colonial, colonized, and colonizing sounds and soundscapes.
• Sound’s appropriations, confusions, or challenges in cross-cultural or trans-national contexts.
• Historical changes in defining and regulating noise.
• Sound and difference, otherness, and solidarity (e.g., race, religion, gender, class).
• The sonic boundaries, limits, and transgressions of the human/non-human divide.
• The contrasting soundscapes of urban/rural/wilderness or pre-industrial/industrial/post-industrial spaces.
• The storage and archiving of sound for use by academics and activists.
The RHR seeks scholarly, monographic research articles, but we also encourage such non-traditional contributions as photo essays, film and book review essays, interviews, brief interventions, “conversations” between scholars and/or activists, and teaching notes and annotated course syllabi for our Teaching Radical History section. Given the specific theme of this issue, we are also interested in multimedia contributions that can take advantage of our format as a print journal but which might also include sound clips for presentation on the RHR website.
Procedures for submission of articles: At this time we are requesting abstracts that are no longer than 400 words; these are due by March 15, 2013 and should be submitted electronically as an attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Issue 121 submission” in the subject line. By April 15, 2013, authors will be notified whether they should submit a full version of their article to undergo the peer review process. The due date for completed drafts of articles is September 1, 2013. An invitation to submit a full article does not guarantee publication; publication depends on the peer review process and the overall shape the journal issue will take.
Please send any images as low-resolution digital files embedded in a Word document along with the text. If chosen for publication, you will need to send high-resolution image files (jpg or tif files at a minimum of 300 dpi), and secure written permission to reprint all images. Authors must also secure permissions for sound clips that they may wish to include with their articles.
Those articles selected for publication after the peer review process will be included in issue 121 of Radical History Review, scheduled to appear in Winter/January 2015.
For preliminary e-mail inquiries, please include “Issue 121” in the subject line.
Abstract Deadline: March 15, 2013