Tag Archive | Kara Keeling

On Whiteness and Sound Studies

white noise

World Listening Month3This is the first post in Sounding Out!’s 4th annual July forum on listening in observation of World Listening Day on July 18th, 2015.  World Listening Day is a time to think about the impacts we have on our auditory environments and, in turn, their effects on us.  For Sounding Out! World Listening Day necessitates discussions of the politics of listening and listening as a political act, beginning this year with Gustavus Stadler’s timely provocation.  –Editor-in-Chief JS

Many amusing incidents attend the exhibition of the Edison phonograph and graphophone, especially in the South, where a negro can be frightened to death almost by a ‘talking machine.’ Western Electrician May 11, 1889, (255).

What does an ever-nearer, ever-louder police siren sound like in an urban neighborhood, depending on the listener’s racial identity? Rescue or invasion? Impending succor or potential violence? These dichotomies are perhaps overly neat, divorced as they are from context. Nonetheless, contemplating them offers one charged example of how race shapes listening—and hence, some would say, sound itself—in American cities and all over the world. Indeed, in the past year, what Jennifer Stoever calls the “sonic color line” has become newly audible to many white Americans with the attention the #blacklivesmatter movement has drawn to police violence perpetrated routinely against people of color.

"Sheet music 'Coon Coon Coon' from 1901" via Wikimedia, public domain

“Sheet music ‘Coon Coon Coon’ from 1901” via Wikimedia, public domain

Racialized differences in listening have a history, of course. Consider the early decades of the phonograph, which coincided with the collapse of Reconstruction and the consolidation of Jim Crow laws (with the Supreme Court’s stamp of approval). At first, these historical phenomena might seem wholly discrete. But in fact, white supremacy provided the fuel for many early commercial phonographic recordings, including not only ethnic humor and “coon songs” but a form of “descriptive specialty”—the period name for spoken-word recordings about news events and slices of life—that reenacted the lynchings of black men. These lynching recordings, as I argued in “Never Heard Such a Thing,” an essay published in Social Text five years ago, appear to have been part of the same overall entertainment market as the ones lampooning foreign accents and “negro dialect”; that is, they were all meant to exhibit the wonders of the new sound reproduction to Americans on street corners, at country fairs, and in other public venues.

Thus, experiencing modernity as wondrous, by means of such world-rattling phenomena as the disembodiment of the voice, was an implicitly white experience. In early encounters with the phonograph, black listeners were frequently reminded that the marvels of modernity were not designed for them, and in certain cases were expressly designed to announce this exclusion, as the epigraph to this post makes brutally evident. For those who heard the lynching recordings, this new technology became another site at which they were reminded of the potential price of challenging the racist presumptions that underwrote this modernity. Of course, not all black (or white) listeners heard the same sounds or heard them the same way. But the overarching context coloring these early encounters with the mechanical reproduction of sound was that of deeply entrenched, aggressive, white supremacist racism.

"66 West 12th Street, New School entrance" by Wikimedia user Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0

“66 West 12th Street, New School entrance” by Wikimedia user Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0

The recent Sonic Shadows symposium at The New School offered me an opportunity to come back to “Never Heard Such a Thing” at a time when the field of sound studies has grown more prominent and coherent—arguably, more of an institutionally recognizable “field” than ever before. In the past three years, at least three major reference/textbook-style publications have appeared containing both “classic” essays and newer writing from the recent flowering of work on sound, all of them formidable and erudite, all of great benefit for those of us who teach classes about sound: The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies (2012), edited by Karen Bijsterveld and Trevor Pinch; The Sound Studies Reader (2013), edited by Jonathan Sterne; and Keywords in Sound (2015), edited by David Novak and Matt Sakakeeny. From a variety of disciplinary perspectives, these collections bring new heft to the analysis of sound and sound culture.

I’m struck, however, by the relative absence of a certain strain of work in these volumes—an approach that is difficult to characterize but that is probably best approximated by the term “American Studies.” Over the past two decades, this field has emerged as an especially vibrant site for the sustained, nuanced exploration of forms of social difference, race in particular. Some of the most exciting sound-focused work that I know of arising from this general direction includes: Stoever’s trailblazing account of sound’s role in racial formation in the U.S.; Fred Moten’s enormously influential remix of radical black aesthetics, largely focused on music but including broader sonic phenomena like the scream of Frederick Douglass’s Aunt Hester; Bryan Wagner’s work on the role of racial violence in the “coon songs” written and recorded by George W. Johnson, widely considered the first black phonographic artist; Dolores Inés Casillas’s explication of Spanish-language radio’s tactical sonic coding at the Mexican border; Derek Vaillant’s work on racial formation and Chicago radio in the 1920s and 30s. I was surprised to see none of these authors included in any of the new reference works; indeed, with the exception of one reference in The Sound Studies Reader to Moten’s work (in an essay not concerned with race), none is cited. The new(ish) American Studies provided the bedrock of two sound-focused special issues of journals: American Quarterly’s “Sound Clash: Listening to American Studies,” edited by Kara Keeling and Josh Kun, and Social Text’s “The Politics of Recorded Sound,” edited by me. Many of the authors of the essays in these special issues hold expertise in the history and politics of difference, and scholarship on those issues drives their work on sound. None of them, other than Mara Mills, is among the contributors to the new reference works. Aside from Mills’s contributions and a couple of bibliographic nods in the introduction, these journal issues play no role in the analytical work collected in the volumes.

"Blank pages intentionally, end of book" by Wikimedia user Brian 0918, CC BY-SA 3.0

“Blank pages intentionally, end of book” by Wikimedia user Brian 0918, CC BY-SA 3.0

The three new collections address the relationship between sound, listening, and specific forms of social difference to varying degrees. All three of the books contain excerpts from Mara Mills’ excellent work on the centrality of deafness to the development of sound technology. The Sound Studies Reader, in particular, contains a small array of pieces that focus on disability, gender and race; in attending to race, specifically, Sterne shrewdly includes an excerpt from Franz Fanon’s A Dying Colonialism, as well as essays on black music by authors likely unfamiliar to many American readers. The Oxford Handbook’s sole piece addressing race is a contribution on racial authenticity in hip-hop. It’s a strong essay in itself. But appearing in this time and space of field-articulation, its strength is undermined by its isolation, and its distance from any deeper analysis of race’s role in sound than what seems to be, across all three volumes, at best, a liberal politics of representation or “inclusion.” Encountering the three books at once, I found it hard not to hear the implicit message that no sound-related topics other than black music have anything to do with race. At the same time, the mere inclusion of work on black music in these books, without any larger theory of race and sound or wider critical framing, risks reproducing the dubious politics of white Euro-Americans’ long historical fascination with black voices.

What I would like to hear more audibly in our field—what I want all of us to work to make more prominent and more possible—is scholarship that explicitly confronts, and broadcasts, the underlying whiteness of the field, and of the generic terms that provide so much currency in it: terms like “the listener,” “the body,” “the ear,” and so on. This work does exist. I believe it should be aggressively encouraged and pursued by the most influential figures in sound studies, regardless of their disciplinary background. Yes, work in these volumes is useful for this project; Novak and Sakakeeny seem to be making this point in their Keywords introduction when they write:

While many keyword entries productively reference sonic identities linked to socially constructed categories of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, citizenship, and personhood, our project does not explicitly foreground those modalities of social difference. Rather, in curating a conceptual lexicon for a particular field, we have kept sound at the center of analysis, arriving at other points from the terminologies of sound, and not the reverse. (8)

I would agree there are important ways of exploring sound and listening that need to be sharpened in ways that extended discussion of race, gender, class, or sexuality will not help with. But this doesn’t mean that work that doesn’t consider such categories is somehow really about sound in a way that the work does take them up isn’t, any more than a white middle-class person who hears a police siren can really hear what it sounds like while a black person’s perception of the sound is inaccurate because burdened (read: biased) by the weight of history and politics.

"Pointy Rays of Justice" by Flickr user Christopher Sebela, CC BY-NC 2.0

“Pointy Rays of Justice” by Flickr user Christopher Sebela, CC BY-NC 2.0

In a recent Twitter conversation with me, the philosopher Robin James made the canny point that whiteness, masquerading as lack of bias, can operate to guarantee the coherence and legibility of a field in formation. James’s trenchant insight reminds me of cultural theorist Kandice Chuh’s recent work on “aboutness” in “It’s Not About Anything,” from Social Text (Winter 2014) and knowledge formation in the contemporary academy. Focus on what the object of analysis in a field is, on what work in a field is about, Chuh argues, is “often conducted as a way of avoiding engagement with ‘difference,’ and especially with racialized difference.”

I would like us to explore alternatives to the assumption that we have to figure out how to talk about sound before we can talk about how race is indelibly shaping how we think about sound; I want more avenues opened, by the most powerful voices in the field, for work acknowledging that our understanding of sound is always conducted, and has always been conducted, from within history, as lived through categories like race.

The cultivation of such openings also requires that we acknowledge the overwhelming whiteness of scholars in the field, especially outside of work on music. If you’re concerned by this situation, and have the opportunity to do editorial work, one way to work to change it is by making a broader range of work in the field more inviting to people who make the stakes of racial politics critical to their scholarship and careers. As I’ve noted, there are people out there doing such work; indeed, Sounding Out! has continually cultivated and hosted it, with far more editorial care and advisement than one generally encounters in blogs (at least in my experience), over the course of its five years. But if the field remains fixated on sound as a category that exists in itself, outside of its perception by specifically marked subjects and bodies within history, no such change is likely to occur. Perhaps we will simply resign ourselves to having two (or more) isolated tracks of sound studies, or perhaps some of us will have to reevaluate whether we’re able to teach what we think is important to teach while working under its rubric.

Thanks to Robin James, Julie Beth Napolin, Jennifer Stoever, and David Suisman for their ideas and feedback.

Gustavus Stadler teaches English and American Studies at Haverford College. He is the author of Troubling Minds: The Cultural Politics of Genius in the U. S.1840-1890 (U of Minn Press, 2006).  His 2010 edited special issue of Social Text on “The Politics of Recorded Sound” was named a finalist for a prize in the category of “General History” by the Association of Recorded Sound Collections. He is the recipient of the 10th Annual Woody Guthrie fellowship! This fellowship will support research for his book-in-progress, Woody Guthrie and the Intimate Life of the Left.

 

tape reelREWIND! . . .If you liked this post, you may also dig:

Reading the Politics of Recorded Sound — Jennifer Stoever

Hearing the Tenor of the Vendler/Dove Conversation: Race, Listening, and the “Noise” of Texts — Christina Sharpe

Listening to the Border: “‘2487’: Giving Voice in Diaspora” and the Sound Art of Luz María Sánchez — Dolores Inés Casillas

Freedom Back: Sounding Black Feminist History, Courtesy the Artists

SO IASPM7Welcome to week four of  our February Forum on “Sonic Borders,”  a collaboration with the IASPM-US blog in connection with this year’s IASPM-US conference on Liminality and Borderlands, held in Austin, Texas from February 28 to March 3, 2013.  The “Sonic Borders” forum is a Virtual Roundtable cross-blog entity that will feature six Sounding Out! writers posting on Mondays through February 25, and four writers from IASPM-US, posting on Wednesdays starting February 6th and ending February 27th.  For an encore of weeks one through three of the forum, click here. And now, Tavia Nyong’o reviews Courtesy the Artist’s The Meeting, courtesy of Sounding Out! –JSA

Last October 2012, in tandem with the New York launch of the retrospective art show Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960-1980,  curated by Kellie Jones and running through March 11, 2013, MoMA PS 1 invited the sounds and images of Black Power into their courtyard Performance Dome for a Sunday afternoon collaborative arts project called The Meeting curated by Courtesy the Artists. Courtesy the Artists is the collaboration of Malik Gaines and Alexandro Segade:  two-thirds of the core members of the L.A.-based performance art collective My Barbarian (the third is Jade Gordon). For The Meeting, recently transplanted New Yorkers Gaines and Seagade opted to curate a gathering of local artists, dancers and musicians they wanted to get to know better, such as LaTasha Diggs, niv Acosta, and Samita Sinha.

the meeting

Curation as collaboration was the ethos behind The Meeting in PS1; Gaines and Segade were much more than masters of ceremony, but performed alongside the artists and musicians they invited. At times The Meeting felt more like a jam session than anything else, following the improvisatory and ensemblic ethos of experimental jazz. Performance piece as musician’s jam was indeed a fitting form, given that the afternoon was built around Seize the Time, a 1969 album of agit-prop cabaret recorded by activist, musician, and erstwhile Black Panther leader, Elaine Brown.

seize

Each participant in The Meeting was invited to respond, in their chosen art form to a song from Brown’s album or another aspect of her legacy that moved them. And move them it did. If music held the event together — from Charles Gaines on the piano and drums to Matana Roberts on a haunting saxophone solo to Geo Wyeth closing down the evening with an astonishing version of  “Seize the Time” intermixed with “Age of Aquarius” from the musical Hair — poetry, polemic, video, and dance sent it spinning off into a dozen scintillating tangents.

What those intersecting and diverging responses to Brown’s album shared was a concern with how the past resonates in the present, how a historical call might not always be muted over time, but sometimes amplified by its repetition across time. Given the predominance of the visual in contemporary culture — nowhere more glaring, perhaps, than in institutions devoted to visual art — what do we make of the role of the aural as a medium through which to register the reverberations of a past? The Meeting was held in a temporary structure, literally vestibular to the permanent edifice of the museum. Is the ear a similar vestibule to the institutions of culture, and, if it is, then wherein might the power of that vestibular flesh, as Hortense Spillers once named it, lie?

tumblr_mhegrcnED51rnoievo1_1280

NYC MoMa Ps1’s Vestibular Performance Dome, image by http://momaps1.tumblr.com/

On Seize the Time, the mercurial Brown transposed the black revolutionary urgency of the 1960s into a musical idiom that sounded remarkable even in its day. It is slightly bemusing to settle into the jazzy opening of the title track  “Seize the Time” with the knowledge that Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and Curtis Mayfield’s Super Fly were just around the corner. Certainly, despite their shared sonic defiance of American racism, Brown’s didactic sprechegesang would never be mistaken for Nina Simone’s soulful alto. Closer to the sonic mark would be singer-songwriters like Carole King, Janis Ian and Joni Mitchell, artists who broke the mold for women in pop in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Consider the rhetorical and musical twists and turns of the first verse of “The End of Silence,” a song that manages equal parts women’s liberation and black nationalism without ever teetering into blaxploitation supervixen territory:

Have you ever stood
In the darkness of night
Screaming silently you’re a man?
Have you ever hoped
That the time would come
When your voice could be heard
In the noonday sun?
Have you waited so long
Till your unheard song
Has stripped away your very soul?
Then believe it my friend
That the silence can end
We’ll just have to get guns and be men.

If The Meeting was a response to the call of that final line, it was one in which the shift from a single voice with backing band to a range of voices and positions was always audible. Some might call this postmodern fragmentation: dance choreographed to a repeating sample of Brown singing “freedom back,” a version of the album edited down to just the sequential instances of her singing the word “man,” played to projected images of every gun in the Panther arsenal she lists in her book. But these interventions arguably only expand our audition of the original album’s possibilities. More than 30 years on, The Meeting took advantage of Seize The Time’s musico-political incongruity to prise open new lines of affiliation between the past and our revanchist present.  The question continuously hung in the air: How do we occupy our radical black and feminist legacies, especially given the fact that we cannot simply repeat those struggles in identical terms? How do we get freedom back?

The declamatory cadences of black rhetoric were as central to the way The Meeting sounded as was its music. LaTasha Diggs’s barnburning performances stopped the show to inform us that revolutionary pussy was out of stock. With Charles Gaines on drums and Matana Roberts on sax, Malik Gaines scatted excerpts from President Obama’s “race speech” while excerpts from speeches Elaine Brown had given to the Panthers were read. Since the context of Obama’s speech had been his own attempt to surrogate the justified anger of the Black Power generation with a message of reconciliation, re-mixing it in this context meant it no longer had the privilege of temporal succession over Brown, but black feminist rhetoric and the improvisatory sax could invaginate his rhetoric with an eternal recurrence of radical insurgence.

It is important to note the predominantly queer and trans performance modalities through which the Meeting posed–if not fully answered–its questions regarding freedom in a contemporary context. Brown’s refrain “we’ll just have to get guns and be men” took on a new connotation when juxtaposed against the queer and trans bodies and voices in performance.

Here history revealed itself as palimpsest: images and icons were superimposed one upon the other to create dense, freighted symbols of masculinity and femininity. In a refrain originally meant to rally radical black women towards the community leadership roles tendentiously claimed by men, the gun was much more than a ‘phallic symbol.’ As Kara Keeling recounts in The Witch’s Flight (an important book containing a shrewd analysis of Seize the Time):

The appearance of the [Black Panther Party] allowed for the recognition of the black man in the Black. But this need not be understood as precluding black “females” from appearing in blacks with guns, nor does it necessarily indicate an inherent connection between “men” and “males.” What is perhaps most innovative about the BPP’s cinematic appearance is that it threw into doubt the validity of the common sense that linked “man” with “male” with “masculine” (85).

For Keeling, the innovative disruption of white supremacist racist sense — congealed in stereotypical images of black men and black women — set the stage, formed the backing track, for the historical emergence of queer and transmasculinities.

niv Acosta dance performance, image courtesy of the author

niv Acosta, image courtesy of the author

Transgender dancer and choreographer niv Acosta rhythmically ran his body against the cushioned seating of the performance dome, to the rhythmic sampling of “freedom back.” The phrase was curiously ambiguous: what actual historical freedom could Brown have possibly exhorted the panthers to claim? What imagined freedom do we think we can reclaim via our remixing of Black Power? The power of Acosta’s performance was to embody that question as a lived and livable improvisation.

Geo Wyeth performs, image courtesy of @momaps1

Geo Wyeth performs, image courtesy of @momaps1

The degree to which a musical legacy such as Brown’s can or should be appropriated beyond a black context was also pointedly staged that afternoon, perhaps most self-consciously by Alex Segade’s rendition of “The Meeting” — which Brown once called the Party’s anthem — in Spanish. Segade’s version captured the melodrama and romantic longing, staging the historical interconnections between black and brown power in California as a hall of mirrors and fleeting glances.

Geo Wyeth brought the house down with a funky final number that had the audience on the edge of their seats, perhaps awaiting the promised nudity a sign at the entrance warned the performance would contain. Wyeth’s onstage costume changes were anything but a striptease, however, as he instead fused the militancy of Seize the Time  with the sexual revolution of Hair in an incompossible auditory portrait of the legacy of “the Sixties.” His performance left the audience with the emphatic reminder that it is less his generation’s challenge to prove adequate to the past than it is to retrieve from history’s shroud the pulsating star of their own desires.

[The Meeting included Simone Leigh, Samita Sinha, Matana Roberts, Charles Gaines, Malik Gaines, Adam Pendleton, niv Acosta, LaTasha Diggs, Xaviera Simmons, Jarrod Kentrell, Alex Segade, and Geo Wyeth].

Featured Image of Jarrod Kentrell performing to Elaine Brown’s “Very Black Man” at The Meeting, Courtesy of the author

Tavia Nyong’o is Associate Professor of Performance Studies at New York University, where he writes, researches and teaches critical black studies, queer studies, cultural theory, and cultural history. His first book, The Amalgamation Waltz: Race, Performance, and the Ruses of Memory (Minnesota, 2009), won the Errol Hill Award for best book in African American theatre and performance studies. Nyong’o has published articles on punk, disco, viral media, the African diaspora, film, and performance art in venues such as Radical History Review, Criticism, TDR: The Journal of Performance Studies, Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, Women Studies Quarterly, The Nation, and n+1. He is co-editor of the journal Social Text.

Sound at ASA 2012

This year, #ASA2012 is being held in San Juan, Puerto Rico at the Puerto Rico Convention Center from November 15-18.  San Juan provides a historic opportunity for the interdisciplinary scholars working under the banner of “American Studies” to ponder the theme, “Dimensions of Empire and Resistance: Past, Present, and Future,” from a site that has been an “unincorporated territory” of the United States since it was seized from Spain (its former imperial occupiers) after the Spanish American War in 1898.  According to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Insular Cases an “unincorporated territory” is “a territory appurtenant and belonging to the United States, but not a part of the United States.” Puerto Ricans have been citizens of the United States since 1917, despite not having voting representatives in Washington D.C. and being unable to vote in mainland presidential elections.  Just a few days ago, Puerto Ricans voted on yet another referendum to become a state—there have been 3 such votes, one in 1967, 1993, and 1998, but this is the first where statehood won a majority of the votes—an issue that both U.S. presidential candidates were all but silent on in their recent campaigns.  This vote suggests a sea change in Puerto Rican-U.S. relations–what an exciting time to hold ASA in San Juan!–and I’d also like to think this particular meeting portends an exciting shift in sound studies as well.

For one thing, sound studies scholars in particular will be discussing power and imperialism loudly and clearly at this meeting. Sounding Out!’s Managing Editor, Liana Silva, will be participating in a roundtable at 8:00 a.m Sunday morning entitled “Doing Disciplinarity: Puerto Rican Studies is/as/with American Studies” where she, along with Marta S. Rivera Monclova (Framingham State College), Leonardo L. Flores Feliciano (University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez), and Sara Poggio (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) will discuss the fraught relationship between the two fields of study, particularly in relation to America’s imperial history.

And then, the fully signed-sealed-and delivered ASA Sound Studies Caucus hosts two official panels that explicitly consider the politics of sound and listening.  The first is on on Friday from 4:00-5:45: Resisting Silences: Re-sounding Race, Gender, and Empire” chaired by Sherrie Tucker (University of Kansas) and featuring the research of Marci McMahon (University of Texas, Pan American), Genevieve Yue (University of Southern California and yours truly, Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman (SUNY Binghamton); and the second on Saturday from 4:00-5:45: “Sound and the State: The Politics of Acoustic Power” chaired by Jonathan Sterne (McGill University) and featuring the research of David Suisman (University of Delaware) and Peter Tschirhart (University of Virginia) with a comment by Mara Mills (New York University).   From the racial dynamics of postwar New York City’s noise laws to “Noise Exposure Maps,” Sonic Booms to the technics of female silence, ASA’s sound studies scholars continue the sociopolitical interventions of last year’s “Sound Clash: Listening to America Studies” special issue of American Quarterly.  This issue, edited by Josh Kun and Kara Keeling, explicitly focused on issues of race, gender, class sexuality, and nation (by the way, if you misplaced your copy, Johns Hopkins press has just released the issue in book volume form).

The Sound Studies Caucus also continues its very important organizational role this year by bringing scholars together for its second annual Sound Studies Caucus Meet-and-Greet, which will be co-hosted by none other than Sounding Out! !!! We have been thrilled to work with co-organizers Inés Casillas (UCSB), Roshanak Kheshti (UCSD) and Deb Vargas (UCR) to plan a get together at the District Bar of the nearby Sheraton (200 Convention Way, 787-993-3500, Map) where we will solicit volunteers and chat about the activities of the caucus this year and next.  Sounding Out! will be officially welcoming the members of its new advisory board at the meet-and-greet, as well as sharing details about current and future Calls for Posts, and pumping up the crowd for what’s ahead in the blog for 2013.  If you are in San Juan for the conference, please join us!

“Grupo Mania and My Puerto Rican Flag,” by Flickr User Photo Prodigy

Overall, while sound studies work is somewhat lighter than in years past—a trend I also noted at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies meeting earlier this year—the research on sound, listening, and aurality at this year’s #ASA2012 is, more than ever before, focused on questions of race, gender, and sexuality in ways that, as Keeling and Kun stated in their introduction to Sound Clash: “can enable an interdisciplinary American studies in which knowledges and insights that have not been perceptible to our dominant intellectual paradigms might be heard or heard anew” (453).  I am particularly enthused about what promises to be excellent new research in African American Studies—especially the panels “Ask Your Mama: The Sound(ed) Poetics and Politics of Black Feminist Internationalism” (Saturday, 12:00-1:45) andBlackness and the Sacred Performative” (Thursday 4:00-5:45, featuring SO! writer Ashon Crawley [Duke]—and Chican@/Latino Studies—notably roundtables on The Talking Cure for Empire? Oral History and Testimonio in the Twenty-first Century” (Friday, 10:00-11:45) and “Subjectivity and Sound: Rethinking Genre in Chicano/a Music” (Friday, 2:00-3:45).  There are also multiple panels that elicit transnational conversations about audio culture—Resisting Silences: Re-sounding Race, Gender, and Empire” (Friday 4:00-5:45) and “Jazz and the Voices of Empire and Resistance” in particular (Saturday, 10:00-11:45)—and enable transmedia comparisons—especially “Terrains of Modernity, Aural Research, and Critique” (Sunday, 2:00-3:45).

Whereas the downturn in sound studies work at SCMS 2012 was due primarily to a scheduling snafu—doublebooked with the 2012 EMP—I think the ASA’s is perhaps due to the beginnings of a sea change (a new wave?)  in sound studies.  It is certainly not attributable to a lack of interest or scholarship—the emails I get for Sounding Out! alone can attest to growing numbers of truly enthusiastic scholars working on sound and listening—therefore, I put forth that sound studies is entering a moment of reflection. It is no longer enough to breathlessly sound out new sonic terrain; we are moving beyond the period when sound alone could be the binding theme in a conference panel.  The work is getting more nuanced, robust sub-fields are developing—voice studies, for example—vocabularies are becoming shared, and more than ever, scholars are engaging with each other’s work on a deeper level, complicating and texturing the just-established histories, narratives, and canons of the field. Whereas Michele Hilmes’s foundational 2005 review essay in American Quarterly “Is there a Thing Called Sound Culture Studies? And Does it Matter?” noted that “various venues of academic work on sound phenomena so rarely speak to or take heed of each other” (252), I noted no fewer than twelve sound-related roundtables at #ASA2012 where scholars will be doing the difficult-but-rewarding work of acknowledging conflicts, hashing out shared interests, and forging what comes next.  Please take good notes, sound studies folks, because ASA has enacted an official ban on recording:

The papers and commentaries presented during this meeting are intended solely for the hearing of those present and should not be tape-recorded, copied, or otherwise reproduced without the consent of the authors. Recording, copying, or reproducing a paper/presentation without the consent of the author(s) may be a violation of common law copyright and may result in legal difficulties for the person recording, copying, or reproducing (ASA Program PDF, 17).

Unfortunately, this means that the 2012 sound roundtables will be one-time-only, be-there-or-be-square affairs.  But as we know from so much research in our vibrant field, even while the vocal grains and tones will fade away into the air of San Juan, these unscripted scholarly performances can’t help but have lasting reverberations.

The Liner Notes for the ASA Sound Studies Caucus “Cassette” Flyer.  This and Featured Image by Frank Bridges, fbridges@eden.rutgers.edu

Scroll down for the sound-related conference listings.  For the virtual experience, look for my live tweets via our Facebook and Twitter pages, Liana Silva’s live tweets (@literarychica) or on the official ASA backchannel: #ASA2012. Please comment to let SO! know what you think–both before and after ASA 2012.  Finally, If I somehow missed you or your panel in this round up, please let me know!: jsa@soundingoutblog.com

Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman is co-founder, Editor-in-Chief and Guest Posts Editor for Sounding Out! She is also Assistant Professor of English at Binghamton University and a former Fellow at the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University (2011-2012).

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THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2012

THURSDAY, November 15, 2012

10:00 am – 11:45 am

 

007. Crimson and Clover: Hope and Dread in the Musical Countercultures of the 1960s

 Puerto Rico Convention Center 102C

CHAIR:  Eric Avila, University of California, Los Angeles (CA)

PAPERS: Rachel Rubin, University of Massachusetts, Boston (MA), “I Think That Maybe I’m Dreaming: Music, Counterculture, and the Renaissance Pleasure Faire”

Andrew Green Hannon, Yale University (CT), “Huey Digs Bob Dylan: The Black Panthers, Highway 61 Revisited, and Making Revolutionary Meaning”

Jeffrey Melnick, University of Massachusetts, Boston (MA), “The Ballad of Terry Melcher: Famous and Rising Sons in the LA Counterculture”

Will Spires, Santa Rosa Junior College (CA), “The Musical Holdouts of Colby Street: Formation and Legacy of an Old Time Music Community”

COMMENT:  Eric Avila, University of California, Los Angeles (CA)

INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

Shane Vogel, Indiana University–Bloomington (IN), “Being a Fad: Black Performance and the Calypso Craze,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 104A

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12:00 pm – 1:45 pm

031. Invisible Structures and the Experience of Music

 Puerto Rico Convention Center 103B

 CHAIR:  Lisa Brawley, Vassar College (NY)

PAPERS: Carlo Rotella, Boston College (MA), “The Home of the Blues”

Eric Weisbard, University of Alabama, Birmingham (AL), “Structuring the Eclectic: Radio and Entertainment Formats (Not Genres)”

 Hua Hsu, Vassar College (NY), “Sounds of Confusion: H. T. Tsiang and Ruth Crawford Seeger’s Protest Music”

COMMENT:  Lisa Brawley, Vassar College (NY)

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 037. Blogging as Public Pedagogy: A Roundtable with GayProf, Historiann, Roxie, and Tenured Radical

Puerto Rico Convention Center 202B

CHAIR:  Martha Nell Smith, University of Maryland, College Park (MD)

PANELISTS:  Marilee Lindemann, University of Maryland, College Park (MD)

Ann Little, Colorado State University (CO)

 Anthony Mora, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (MI)

Claire Bond Potter, New School University (NY)

Martha Nell Smith, University of Maryland, College Park (MD)

 

INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

Jack Hamilton, Harvard University (MA), “House Burning Down: Jimi Hendrix, Race, and the Limits of Sixties Music,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 104A

Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, University of Pennsylvania (PA), “Feeling Colors and Seeing Speech: Black Women’s Choreopoetic Diasporas of Difference,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 209C

 

2:00 pm – 3:45 pm

INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

Nadja Millner-Larsen, “Black Synaesthesia: The Anarcho-Aesthetics of Black Mask,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 104B

Mary Beltrán, University of Texas, Austin (TX), “Blacking Up for Laughs: Televisual Blackface and ‘Post-Racial’ Cultural Memory,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 208B

 

 4:00 pm – 5:45 pm

 077. Blackness and the Sacred Performative

 Puerto Rico Convention Center 104A

CHAIR:  Michelle D. Commander, University of Tennessee, Knoxville (TN)

PAPERS: Amey Victoria Adkins, Duke University (NC), “‘Ain’t I A Woman’: Black Madonnas, Mammys, and the Performative Aesthetics of Darkness”

 Ashon Crawley, Duke University (NC), “Breathing Towards Lynching Critique: Whooping in Black Pentecostal Praying and Preaching”

 Terrion L. Williamson, Michigan State University (MI), “Black Sacred Dance and the Reverberations of Christian Sexuality”

COMMENT:  Johari Jabir, University of Illinois, Chicago (IL)

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INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

Molly McGlennen, Vassar College (NY), “Re-imagining “Domestic Dependency”: The Transnational Motivations of Rebecca Belmore’s Sound Performances,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 209C

 

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Memorial to Salsa Composer Catalino (Tite) Curet Alonso (1926-2003) in the Plaza de Armas, Image by Flickr User roger4336

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FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2012

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2012

8:00 am – 9:45 am

 105. Mixtape Logics: Listening to Empire and Resistance

Puerto Rico Convention Center 104B

CHAIR: Matthew Carrillo-Vincent, University of Southern California (CA)

PANELISTS: Priya Jha, University of Redlands (CA)

Van Truong, Yale University (CT)

Chris Nielsen, University of Pittsburgh (PA)

COMMENT: Joshua Guild, Princeton University (NJ)

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108. Caucus: Digital Humanities: What Can the Digital Humanities Bring to American Studies, and Vice Versa?

Puerto Rico Convention Center 202A

CHAIR: Susan Garfinkel, Library of Congress (DC)

PANELISTS: Natalia Cecire, Yale University (CT)

Alex Gil, University of Virginia (VA)

Matthew K. Gold, City University of New York, Graduate School (NY)

Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Modern Language Association (NY)

Lauren Klein, Georgia Institute of Technology (GA)

Miriam Posner, University of California, Los Angeles (CA)

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117. Performance as Power and Critique: Social Change in African Diasporic Performance

Puerto Rico Convention Center 208C

CHAIR: Jennifer Devere Brody, Stanford University (CA)

PAPERS: Tisha Brooks, Tufts University (MA) ,“Performing Power and Privilege: The Spiritual Itinerant Practice of Amanda Berry Smith”

Shanesha R. F. Brooks-Tatum, Interdenominational Theological Center (GA), “Sonic Bridges: Conversion Narratives in Diasporic Christian Hip-Hop Performance”

Tanya Saunders, Lehigh University (PA), “Global Hip Hop, Black Feminism, and the Queer of Color Critique: An Analysis of Women-Centered Arts-Based Activism in Cuba and Brazil”

Lori Lynne Brooks, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (MI), “It’s Empire Time!: Black Popular Performance and the Temporality of Imperialism”

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10:00 am – 11:45 am

125. The Talking Cure for Empire? Oral History and Testimonio in the Twenty-first Century

Puerto Rico Convention Center 102B

CHAIR: Theresa Delgadillo, Ohio State University, Columbus (OH)

PANELISTS: Tami Albin, University of Kansas (KS)

Maylei Blackwell, University of California, Los Angeles (CA)

Thuy Vo Dang, University of California, Irvine (CA)

Theresa Delgadillo, Ohio State University, Columbus (OH)

Linda Garcia Merchant, Artist

Joseph Rodríguez, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (WI)

Sonia Saldívar-Hull, University of Texas, San Antonio (TX)

Janet Weaver, University of Iowa (IA)

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127. ASA Program Committee: Dimensions of Empire and Resistance: Speculation, Futurity, New Materialisms

Puerto Rico Convention Center 103A

CHAIR: Tavia Nyong’o, New York University (NY)

PANELISTS: Jayna Brown, University of California, Riverside (CA)

Tavia Nyong’o, New York University (NY)

Dana Luciano, Georgetown University (DC)

José Esteban Muñoz, New York University (NY)

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131. Caucus: Science and Technology: What is the Future of Technology in American Studies?: A Roundtable

Puerto Rico Convention Center 104C

CHAIR: Jason Weems, University of California, Riverside (CA)

PANELISTS: Carolyn de la Pena, University of California, Davis (CA)

Lisa Nakamura, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (IL)

Joshua Shannon, University of Maryland, College Park (MD)

Elena Razlogova, Concordia University (Canada)

Joel Dinerstein, Tulane University (LA)

COMMENT: Jason Weems, University of California, Riverside (CA)

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133. Caucus: Digital Humanities: Digital Shorts: New Platforms of Knowledge Production and Resistance

Puerto Rico Convention Center 202A

CHAIR: A. Joan Saab, University of Rochester (NY)

PANELISTS: Susan Smulyan, Brown University (RI)

Stewart Varner, Emory University (GA)

A. Joan Saab, University of Rochester (NY)

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INDIVIDUAL PAPERS

Thomas George Sowders, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge (LA), Puerto Rico Convention Center 208C, “Martin Delany’s Sonic Transnationalism: Genres of Poetry and Sound in Blake; or, the Huts of America

 12:00 pm – 1:45 pm

146. Ask Your Mama: The Sound(ed) Poetics and Politics of Black Feminist Internationalism

Puerto Rico Convention Center 101A

CHAIR: Farah Griffin, Columbia University (NY)

PAPERS: Daphne Ann Brooks, Princeton University (NJ), “‘A Woman is a Sometime Thing’: Leontyne and Sarah’s Sonic Temporalities’

Salamishah Tillet, University of Pennsylvania (PA), “Hush and Listen: Mama Africa and Nina Simone’s Global Civil Rights Sound”

Imani Perry, Princeton University (NJ), “Sounding Like a Movement: The Advance of Miriam Makeba’s Retreat Song”

COMMENT: Farah Griffin, Columbia University (NY)

12:00 pm – 1:45 pm

168. Business Meeting of the Digital Humanities Caucus

Puerto Rico Convention Center Foyer A

 

2:00 pm – 3:45 pm

 182. ASA Committee on Graduate Education: Digital Dimensions of Graduate Education in American Studies (co-sponsored by the Digital Humanities Caucus and ASA Students’ Committee)

Puerto Rico Convention Center 202A

CHAIR: Robert W. Snyder, Rutgers University, Newark (NJ)

PANELISTS: Clarissa J. Ceglio, Brown University (RI)

Douglas Lambert, State University of New York, Buffalo (NY)

Sharon Leon, George Mason University (VA)

John Carlos Rowe, University of Southern California (CA)

Stephen Brier, City University of New York, Graduate School (NY)

 

187. Subjectivity and Sound: Rethinking Genre in Chicano/a Music

Puerto Rico Convention Center 208A

CHAIR: Tyina Steptoe, University of Washington, Seattle (WA)

PANELISTS: Anthony Macias, University of California, Riverside (CA)

Marie Miranda, University of Texas, San Antonio (TX)

Michelle Habell-Pallan, University of Washington, Seattle (WA)

INDIVIDUAL PAPERS

Marisol Negrón, University of Massachusetts, Boston (MA) “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Fania Records, Intellectual Property Rights, and Royalties,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 104B

Isabel Porras, University of California, Davis (CA) “Hypersexual and Excessive: Carmen Miranda and Sofia Vergara and Performing Latinidad,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 203

4:00 pm – 5:45 pm

208. Caucus: Sound Studies: Resisting Silences: Re-sounding Race, Gender, and Empire

Puerto Rico Convention Center 204

CHAIR: Sherrie Tucker, University of Kansas (KS)

PAPERS: Marci McMahon, University of Texas, Pan American (TX), “Tanya Saracho’s El Nogalar: Staging Soundscapes of Silence and Imperialism”

Genevieve Yue, University of Southern California (CA), “Technics of Female Silence”

Jennifer Lynn Stoever-Ackerman, State University of New York, Binghamton (NY), “‘Just Be Quiet Pu-leeze’: New York’s Black Press Fights the Postwar ‘Campaign Against Noise’

COMMENT: Sherrie Tucker, University of Kansas (KS)

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213. I’m a MuthaFking Monster: Alter Egos, New Media, and Black/Queer Performativity

Puerto Rico Convention Center 209B

CHAIR: Gabriel Peoples, University of Maryland, College Park (MD)

PAPERS: Treva Lindsey, University of Missouri, Columbia (MO), “I Am… Sasha Fierce: Resistive Alterity and African American Respectability Politics”

Uri McMillan, University of California, Los Angeles (CA), “Gone Campin’: The Campy Paradox of Nicki Minaj”

Kismet Nunez / Jessica Marie Johnson, University of Maryland, College Park (MD), “On Alter Egos and Infinite Literacies, Part 2 (An #AntiJemimas Imperative)”

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INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

Omi/Joni Jones, University of Texas, Austin (TX); Sharon Bridgforth, DePaul University (IL), “Conjuring Jazz”

Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián, San Juan, Puerto Rico, by Flickr User Jorge Rodriquez

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SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2012

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2012

 8:00 am – 9:45 am

237. Empires of Funk: U.S. Colonialism, Filipina/o Resistance, and Hip Hop

Puerto Rico Convention Center 202A

CHAIR: Victor Hugo Viesca, California State University, Los Angeles (CA)

PAPERS: Mark Villegas, University of California, Irvine (CA), “From Indios to Morenos: Exploring the Poetics and Memory of Postcolonial Racial Positioning”

Lorenzo Perillo, University of California, Los Angeles (CA), “Maganda at Malakas: Gendered Choreographies in Manila”

Roderick Labrador, University of Hawai‘i, Manoa, (HI) “Agitation Propaganda: Toward a Filipina/o Revolutionary Internationalism”

COMMENT: Brian Chung, University of Notre Dame (IN)

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242. Aesthetics in the Belly of the Beast: Reading American Carceral Art

Puerto Rico Convention Center 208A

CHAIR: Doran Larson, Hamilton College (NY)

PAPERS: Alessandro Porco, State University of New York, Buffalo (NY), “The ‘And’ After Every Sentence: Hip-Hop, Incarceration, and Creativity”

Imani Kai Johnson, New York University (NY), “B-Boying Behind Bars: A Profile of Batch from The Bronx Boys Rocking Crew”

Marcella Runell Hall, New York University (NY), “Assessment Data on ‘Lyrics from Lockdown,’”

COMMENT: Doran Larson, Hamilton College (NY)

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INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

Sarah Perkins, Stanford University (CA), “‘Bound to trabble’: The Circulation of ‘Dixie,’ 1880–1910,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 201A

 Nicholas Bauch, California State University, Los Angeles (CA), “Practicing Geography Through Art Performance: Urban Interventions and the Renaissance of the Vernacular,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 209B

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10:00 am – 11:45 am

263. ASA Program Committee: Dimensions of Empire and Resistance: Language Ideologies, Spanish in the U.S., and Latinidad

Puerto Rico Convention Center 202B

CHAIR: Ana Celia Zentella, University of California, San Diego (CA)

PAPERS: Lourdes Maria Torres, DePaul University (IL), “Spanish in Chicago: Dialects in Contact”

Jonathan Daniel Rosa, University of Massachusetts, Amherst (MA), “Racializing Language, Regimenting Latinidad:Latina/o Ethnolinguistic Emblems in Diasporic Perspective”

Lillian Gorman, University of Illinois, Chicago (IL). “The (New) Mexican Familia: Ethnolinguistic Contact Zones in Northern New Mexico”

COMMENT: Ana Celia Zentella, University of California, San Diego (CA)

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12:00 pm – 1:45 pm

278. Black Independent Cinema Before and After Pariah

Puerto Rico Convention Center 101B

CHAIR: Kara Keeling, University of Southern California (CA)

PANELISTS: Jennifer DeClue, University of Southern California (CA)

Yvonne Welbon, Bennett College (NC)

Jacqueline Najuma Stewart, Northwestern University (IL)

Roya Z. Rastegar, University of California, Los Angeles (CA)

Kara Keeling, University of Southern California (CA)

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287. West Side Story: A Roundtable Discussion

Puerto Rico Convention Center 202A

CHAIR: Julia Foulkes, New School University (NY)

PANELISTS: Julia Foulkes, New School University (NY)

Alberto Sandoval-Sánchez, Mount Holyoke College (MA)

Deborah Paredez, University of Texas, Austin (TX)

Elizabeth Wells, Mt. Allison University (Canada)

Brian Eugenio Herrera, Princeton University (NJ)

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INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

Rashida K. Braggs, Williams College (MA), “From Limited to Alternate Citizenship: How Image and Song Perform Historical Resistance in Bayou,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 208A

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2:00 pm – 3:45 pm

2nd Annual Sound Studies Meet and Greet! Co-Sponsored by the ASA Sound Studies Caucus and Sounding Out!: The Sound Studies Blog

The District Bar
SHERATON PUERTO RICO HOTEL & CASINO
200 Convention Center Boulevard, San Juan, PR 00907
Cash Bar
Appetizers! Drink Specials! VIP area!

303. Musical Movements

Puerto Rico Convention Center 102B

CHAIR: Ulrich Adelt, University of Wyoming (WY)

PAPERS: John Cline, University of Texas, Austin (TX), “Familiar Islands: The U.S., the Bahamas, and the Permeable Boundaries of ‘Folk’ Music”

Mikiko Tachi, Chiba University (Japan), “Folk Music and the Racial Imaginary in the U.S. and Japan”

Shana Goldin-Perschbacher, Stanford University (CA), “‘I need another world’: Queer Singer-Songwriters in Transnational Collaboration Post-9/11”

COMMENT: Ulrich Adelt, University of Wyoming (WY)

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314. Re-thinking Red, Yellow, Black, and Chicana/o Power through Oral History

Puerto Rico Convention Center 204

CHAIR: Rhonda Williams, Case Western Reserve University(OH)

PAPERS: Lorena Oropeza, University of California, Davis (CA), “He Said, She Said, But Who’s Right?: Oral History Unlocks Anti-Colonialism in 1960s New Mexico”

May Fu, University of San Diego (CA), “Oral History and the Asian American Radical Tradition”

Elizabeth Castle, University of South Dakota (SD), “Talking Back: Native Women’s Oral Histories in the Red Power Movement”

Lauren Araiza, Denison University (OH), “Oral Histories and Multiracial Coalitions in the UFW and the Black Freedom Struggle”

COMMENT: Rhonda Williams, Case Western Reserve University, (OH)

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INDIVIDUAL PAPERS

Rachel Donaldson, Vanderbilt University (TN), “Seeking the ‘Sensual’  and the ‘Significant’: Alan Lomax in Haiti”

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4:00 pm – 5:45 pm

325. Chavela Vargas, La Bamba, and Morrissey: Mapping Queer Musical Diasporas and Desires

Puerto Rico Convention Center 102A

CHAIR: Stacy Macias, University of Texas, Austin (TX)

PAPERS: J. Frank Galarte, University of Arizona (AZ), “‘Que soy muy canalla dice la gente’: The Pleasure of Queer Love, Desire, and Dolor in Chavela Vargas’ Repertoire”

Micaela Díaz-Sánchez, Mount Holyoke College (MA), “Yo también quiero bailar la bamba”: The Policing of Gender in the Chicana/o Son Jarocho Diaspora”

Melissa Hidalgo, Pitzer College (CA), “Complicated Colonial Legacies: Mapping the Queer Chicano Contours of Morrissey’s Los Angeles Fanscape in “Gay Vatos in Love”

COMMENT: Stacy Macias, University of Texas, Austin (TX)

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326. Marginal Digital Knowledges: A Workshop on Technology, Transformation, and Resistance

Puerto Rico Convention Center 102B

CHAIR: Tara McPherson, University of Southern California (CA)

PANELISTS: Simone A. Browne, University of Texas, Austin (TX)

Fiona Barnett, Duke University (NC)

Amanda Phillips, University of California, Santa Barbara (CA)

Tanner Higgin, University of California, Riverside (CA)

Moya Bailey, Emory University (GA)

Alexis Lothian, Indiana University of Pennsylvania (PA)

 

327. Caucus: Sound Studies: Sound and the State: The Politics of Acoustic Power

Puerto Rico Convention Center 102C

CHAIR: Jonathan Sterne, McGill University (Canada)

PAPERS: David Suisman, University of Delaware (DE), “Shock Wave Politics: The Battle Over Sonic Booms”

Peter Tschirhart, University of Virginia (VA), “Part 150 ‘Noise Exposure Maps’ and the Closing of the Acoustic Commons”

COMMENT: Mara Mills, New York University (NY)

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329. Between Island and Diaspora: Locating, Creating, and Performing Afro–Puerto Rican Bomba

Puerto Rico Convention Center 104A

MODERATOR: Tamara Roberts, University of California, Berkeley (CA)

This roundtable brings together bomba practitioners, cultural workers, and scholars from Puerto Rico and California. Rafael Maya and Pablo Luis Rivera will discuss their work as the founders of Proyecto Unión and Restauración Cultural. Sarazeta Ragazzi, Tamara Roberts, and Denise Solis will detail their work in the all-women’s performance ensemble Las Bomberas de la Bahia (San Francisco Bay Area). And Jade Power Sotomayor will extend the discussion of cross-cultural connections byconsidering the large Chicano participation in the form in the U.S., underscoring the ways that Latinidad and more specifically, Afro-Latinidad are corporeally articulated through this embodied practice.

Congas, Image courtesy of Flickr User Richard Alexander Caraballo

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SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2012

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2012

8:00 am – 9:45 am

 365. Doing Disciplinarity: Puerto Rican Studies is/as/withAmerican Studies

Puerto Rico Convention Center 204

CHAIR: Marta S. Rivera Monclova, Framingham State College (MA)

PANELISTS: Marta S. Rivera Monclova, Framingham State College (MA)

Liana Marie Silva, State University of New York, Binghamton (NY)

Leonardo L. Flores Feliciano, University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez (PR)

Sara Poggio, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (MD)

 

INDIVIDUAL PAPERS

Nadia Ellis, University of California, Berkeley (CA), “Dancehall’s Urban Possessions,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 101A

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10:00 am – 11:45 am

377. Jazz and the Voices of Empire and Resistance

Puerto Rico Convention Center 102A

CHAIR: John Gennari, University of Vermont (VT)

PAPERS: Daniel Stein, University of Goettingen (Germany), “Onkel Satchmo Behind the Iron Curtain: The Politics of Louis Armstrong’s Visit to East Germany”

Elliott H. Powell, New York University (NY), “Solidarity in Sound: John Coltrane, Indian Music, and Global Freedom Struggles”

Matthew B. Karush, George Mason University (VA), “Transnational Routes: Argentine Encounters with Jazz, 1959–1972”

COMMENT: John Gennari, University of Vermont (VT)

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INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

Daphne Lamothe, Smith College (MA), “Trauma, Silence, and the Language of Resistance in Danticat’s Brother, I’m Dying”

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12:00 pm – 1:45 pm

INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

 Imani D. Owens, Columbia University (NY), “The Politics of Sound: Race, Space, and Cuban Identity in the Poetry of Nicolás Guillén,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 209A

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2:00 pm – 3:45 pm

420. Terrains of Modernity, Aural Research, and Critique

Puerto Rico Convention Center 104C

CHAIR: Michele Hilmes, University of Wisconsin, Madison (WI)

PAPERS: Art Blake, Ryerson University (Canada), “John Cage’s Voice and New York’s Postwar Urban Sensorium”

Derek Vaillant, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (MI), “The Power of Piaf: Racial Formation and Nostalgia in Postwar U.S.-France Aural Culture”

Jason Loviglio, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (MD), “Radio Localism 2.0”

Benjamin Aslinger, Bentley College (MA), “Listening In to Web 2.0: Subjectivity, Alterity, and Power”

COMMENT: Michele Hilmes, University of Wisconsin, Madison (WI)

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423. Los Nombres: Puerto Rican Popular Music in Lorain, Ohio

Puerto Rico Convention Center 202C

CHAIR: Petra R. Rivera-Rideau, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VA)

PANELISTS: Petra R. Rivera-Rideau, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VA)

Eugene Rivera, Jr., Independent Scholar

José Pepe Rivera, Sr., Artist

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INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

Mike Amezcua, Northwestern University (IL), “Brown Bop: Mexican American Jazzmen, Race, and the Quest for a Transnational Jazz Movement”

San Juan, Puerto Rico, Image courtesy of Ricymar Fine Art Photography

Sounding Out! Occupies the Internet, or Why I Blog

Ticker Tape Parade, New York City Financial District, by Kitty Wallace

Welcome to our 100th post! It’s me, Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman, Editor-in-Chief, Guest Posts Editor, and Co-Founder of Sounding Out! : The Sound Studies Blog, which has been faithfully “pushing sound studies into the red since 2009.”  Together with Liana Silva, Co-Founder and Managing Editor, and Aaron Trammell, Co-Founder and Multimedia Editor, we thank you for your faithful readership, your enthusiasm, and of course, your likes, shares, retweets, and good, old-fashioned word-of-mouth!! We are going to keep serving up sound studies’ latest and greatest for a long time to come, for anyone who wants to listen.  Keep a look out for our site redesign coming in January 2012: same good stuff, just that much easier on the eyes.

In honor of this momentous occasion, I am going to get all “meta-“ on you and take you behind the scenes of Sounding Out!,  sharing some of the reasons why we decided to start a public conversation about sound studies on the Internet.  A manifesto of sorts, this post is adapted from a talk I gave a few weeks back at the American Studies Association annual meeting in Baltimore as part of an excellent panel called “Digital Displays: Women Imagining The Blogosphere as Alternative Public Spheres,” sponsored by the American Studies Women’s Committee, organized by Nicole Hodges Persley (University of Kansas) and featuring the excellent work of Tanya Golash-Bolaza, Judy Lubin, and Jamie Schmidt Wagman.

With all that has happened in the short time that has passed since mid-October—especially at #Occupy sites across the country and around the world—I am only more convinced of the need to empower ourselves by building our own microphones, platforms, and audiences, rather than wait for “official” channels to open up; more often than not, they are cut off, nonresponsive, non-existent or just plain hijacked. Without stretching the metaphor too far or confusing what we do with front-line activism—no one is pepper spraying SO!, let’s be real—I’d like to think that the story of  Sounding Out! is also a tale of occupation in its own way.  In that spirit of solidarity and D.I.Y. information exchange, here’s a bit about why I blog. I hope to inspire you to join in the conversation.

(P.S. Check our November 2011 coverage of the acoustics of the #Occupy movement thanks to guest writers Gina Arnold and Ted Sammons)

***

In their introduction to the hot-off-the presses special issue of American Quarterly on sound studies—which actually mentions Sounding Out!, on page 451! Yes!—editors Kara Keeling and Josh Kun report receiving an unusual number of submissions from junior faculty members and graduate students, which they describe as “a sign not only of sound’s quantitative currency but the promise of its future as a field of ongoing inquiry, and its importance and relevance to the future of American Studies itself” (452). Keeling and Kun’s editorial openness to newer work is a wonderful exception in traditional academic publishing, where issues of access can loom large for emerging scholars struggling to publish and build a national reputation, particularly for women, scholars of color and/or first-generation scholars, whose expertise in their particular fields is rarely taken for granted.  I use the term access here to refer to breaking into the centers of power on our campuses and/or in our respective fields.  When you are a “nontraditional” scholar frequently isolated at and from your institution, marginalized in your field, and excluded from formal and informal networks of power, all key characteristics cited by Rosabeth Kanter’s influential study of “Tokenism,” gaining a foothold in the increasingly bleak academic landscape can seem insurmountable.

The Logo of the Women's Audio Mission: Changing the Face of Sound

Because Sound Studies is not yet fully institutionalized—there are beginning to be sound studies masters’ concentrations at a few schools like NYU and the New School, but there are still no “sound studies” departments in the United StatesI believe the kind of intervention that I am helping to stage with Sounding Out! is even more important.  Scholars working in audio cultures are spread across, and often isolated in, many fields that are themselves identified as white and male dominated, both in terms of demographics and research agenda: media studies, the history of science and technology, popular music, sound art and design, and film studies, to name a few.  When considered alongside the abysmal numbers of many professional fields for sound practitioners, like video game design, radio announcing, and audio recording—the Women’s Audio Mission reports that 95% of the professional recording industry is currently male—the need is even more clear for two-way channels that increase the access of women and people of color to the central conversations of their industries and academic fields while improving the access of other scholars and wider reading publics to our work.

Blast from the Pre-Sounding Out! Past: BU Sound Studies Collective Logo Circa 2008

Blast from the Pre-Sounding Out! Past: BU Sound Studies Collective Logo Circa 2008

Rather than wait for a platform for our sound studies scholarship to arise, I helped to build a public conversation in a medium that could not only be more responsive to the lightning-paced nature of sound studies’ breakthrough moment, but also one that could be more responded to: open, collaborative, and in conversation with a wide range of interested parties. Way back in 2009, there were few traditional publication venues for research on sound; sound studies scholars had to rely on rare special issues or occasional essays on the margins of various disciplines’ journals. The first print journal primarily devoted to sound launched in Summer 2008, Music, Sound, and the Moving Image, but it still left large gaps for those not working in film. Not only did we lack the considerable resources necessary to start a print journal, but the medium wasn’t quite up to our tasks.  A blog seemed much more flexible, able to build a continuously updated, networked, public archive of sound studies scholars, while sustaining what Kathleen Fitzpatrick describes as “an open, post-publication review process [that] is a non-anonymous discussion by a community of scholars working together on collective issues” in her September 30th, 2011 interview with Inside Higher Ed.

Paul Krugman called such interventions “breaking in from anywhere” in his October 18th, 2011 blog for the New York Times, “Our Blogs, Ourselves,” arguing that the blogosphere makes academia’s “magic circles” seem “less formal and less defined by where you sit or where you went to school.” Krugman argues blogging has “showed what things are really like. If some famous economists seem to be showing themselves intellectually naked, it’s not really a change in their wardrobe, it’s the fact that it’s easier than it used to be for little boys to get a word in.”  We at Sounding Out! like to think we’re also helping women (little, big, or otherwise) to join this conversation, and more importantly, to change it.

While voices like those on Team Sounding Out! are often central to the “ground floor” conversations that shape a new field at conferences, online, and/or at our home institutions, they are often left behind when a field crystallizes in print journal publishing, which, given its limited space and slower-pace, favors the seasoned scholar. Publishing a blog can both complement peer-reviewed research and intervene in its recalcitrant institutional practices.  As Claire Potter, author of the blog Tenured Radical, writes, the blogosphere “works against the stultifying tendency of the academy to keep untenured people in as subservient a state as possible for the longest possible time.”  Sounding Out! enables our untenured but knowledgeable editorial crew to approach the field with agency and gusto, actively seeking out the “ground floor” intellectual labor and innovation happening in sound studies, making it audible and visible in a public forum that is far from ghettoized.  We deliberately curate an integrated, and dynamic collaboration between junior scholars, senior scholars, graduate students, and sound professionals. Thanks to you, we’ll be topping 50,000 hits this week.

Before this all sounds too rosy, I should also be clear that running Sounding Out! is plenty of work, even with a brilliant editorial team. I am constantly surprised at how much time I spend just wrestling with WordPress, let alone the cooler parts of the gig. Not to mention, its role in my tenure case remains to be seen.  However, even when the hours get long (squeezed in on nights and weekends after already impossibly long days and weeks), I will also say that it is work that is deeply satisfying and creative, work that feels both truly my own and yet deeply connected to a worthy collective goal.

I am also thrilled to report that several members of my non-academic family have told me that, thanks to the blog, they “finally understand what the hell it is I do,” which is one of the highest compliments I have received in a long while. As Editor-in-Chief, one of my main missions for Sounding Out! has always been for the blog to become—and remain—a smart, well-written, and informative-yet-irresistible venue for the work of emerging sound studies scholars for academics and non-academics alike. That is ultimately why we work so hard over here at SO!: to share the most vital and important findings of our field in a way that impacts lives as well as careers.

Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman is co-founder, Editor-in-Chief and Guest Posts Editor for Sounding Out! She is also Assistant Professor of English at Binghamton University and a Fellow at the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University.

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