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Politics of Sound & Ethics of Listening in Urban Dance Music and the Public Sphere

Part of the Sound Studies Lecture Series


This talk will address politics of sound and ethics of listening by situating sound studies and music within postcolonial theory, popular culture and ethnographic practice.

Drawing from Maier’s book Transcultural Sound Practices: British Asian Dance Music as Cultural Transformation, she will discuss the concrete sonic techniques and performative strategies – such as sampling and manipulating Bollywood songs or singing a mix of Punjabi and Jamaican Creole – in the music by Asian Dub Foundation and M.I.A. These sound practices will be investigated as part of a wider assemblage of cultural technologies, politics and practices, challenging the ways in which ethnicity has been written into sound.

The concept of sound practices will be elaborated and extended beyond music to incorporate examples from sound art and sensory ethnography to ask what an ethics of listening might entail:

How do we listen in the public sphere & in everyday life? How can we unlearn our habits of listening and learn to adopt new modes of listening?

Politics of Sound

Carla J. Maier

Carla J. Maier is Marie Curie research fellow at the University of Copenhagen, working on the postdoc project “Travelling Sounds: A Sensory Ethnography of Sonic Artefacts in Postcolonial Europe” (2018-2020). Her research is situated at the intersection of sound studies, postcolonial studies and cultural anthropology. She has published on Afro-diasporic urban club music, postmigrant theatre, functional sounds, the sound of skateboarding and sound art. She is author of the monograph Transcultural Sound Practices: British Asian Dance Music as Cultural Transformation (2020).