Politics of Frequency: A Crisis of Listening

Demonstrators march down Constitution Avenue on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963. Image Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Demonstrators march down Constitution Avenue on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963. Image Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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Study Sessions are informal and intimate discussion groups. This season our study-as-listening-sessions expand on the new research strand Sonic Continuum, and explore how sound and rhythm create forms of attunement between the self and the world. Readings and discussions explore the sonic, the auditory and the aural spanning philosophy, history, politics, finance and biology. The sessions open out the ideas and themes of our research strand and ask: how can listening practices produce sociality?

Many different explanations, mainly economic and cultural, have been offered for the increasing disillusionment with politics that has driven the resurgence of right nationalisms in the UK and other democracies across the globe. There is much talk in political discourse of listening as a remedy. What would it mean to take seriously the idea that widespread distrust in political systems emerges out of a general crisis in listening manifested in multiple aspects of our lives? In this study session, we look at re-engaging people and democratising power over their lives outside of electoral politics through a renewed investment in listening.

Through an introductory talk and discussion exploring examples from Waltham-Smith’s fieldwork and the work of artist-activists such as Sharon Hayes, Mendi and Keith Obadike, and Ultra-red, this study session investigates what paradigms we have for building local, community-based practices of listening and how they put pressure on the meaning of a political buzzword of our times.

Join one session or all. Booking is required as places are limited.

Naomi Waltham-Smith is Associate Professor in the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies at the University of Warwick. At the intersection of sound studies and European philosophy, her research investigates the politics of listening. She is the author of Music and Belonging Between Revolution and Restoration (Oxford University Press, 2017) and her second book, The Sound of Biopolitics, is forthcoming with Fordham University Press. She is currently writing a book on the role of listening in contemporary crises of representative democracy and in 2019–20 she is also a fellow at the Akademie Schloss Solitude.

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