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Political Ecology of Silences

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Organizer: Can Bilir

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This seminar will gather a community of researchers with multidisciplinary focuses working within and beyond literature, film, music, and sound studies to examine the Anthropocentric detrimental impacts on environmental and social levels through the critical analysis, reading, and listening of silence and sound.


The post-1950s period hosted cultural and technological changes in auditory aesthetics with advancements proposing listening to the physical traits of sound. These advancements, which predominantly derived from digital music studios in France and, later, in Germany and the US, proposed sound imaginations in favor of acousmatic music and reduction of listening (Schaeffer 1966; Chion 2016), in which sounds are extracted from causalities, semantics, and other sensorial stimulations. This framework proposed a formalized abstraction of the physicalism and materialism of digital and acoustic audio productions and designs. In the same period, upon the great accelerations (Steffen et al. 2015), increase in the awareness of anthropocentric detrimental impacts on a planetary scale provided the foundation for a new materialistic turn in terms of multiplicities, nature, actants, and affect as opposed to reductive formalizations (Spinoza 1992; Bergson 2001 & 1944; Deleuze 1968; Bennett 2010).


Though these two systems of thought contrast with each other in the way that they deal with materialism, physicalism, and naturalism as relevant to auditory imaginaries, they together shape networks of knowledge (Latour 2004) and production techniques in global circulation, while the audibility of oppressed “others” and the subaltern in ordinary listening and discourse (Said 1984; Trouillot 1995; Spivak 2010) from otherized place imaginaries, such as the Global South, remains silenced. Silence’s material definition and natural-social role continue to be ambiguous among noises, inaudibility, fidelity (Attali 1985, Sterne 2003, Erlmann 2010), and emptiness in soundscapes (Schafer 1977), narration, and musicality.


This seminar welcomes new critical perspectives on silence and sound, building on the material, physical, and natural trichotomy in sound studies with critical approaches to the imaginaries of place, transnationalism, and universalism. Welcomed subjects include and are not limited to silence as natural impossibility (Cage 1961); sound’s role in cosmopolitanism (Kant 1795), eco-cosmopolitanism,  sense of place (Heise 2008), and provincializing (Chakrabarty 2000); refrains, differentiation, and rhizomatic multiplicities (Deleuze 1968; Deleuze & Guattari 1987); acousmêtre and vococentrism (Chion 1999); modern and mononaturalism (Latour 1993 & 2013); natural and humanistic historicities (Chakrabarty 2016); cyborg, compost, and posthumanism (Haraway 1985 & 2016), in addition to silence in postcolonial discourse.

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