Jennifer Stoever: The Sonic Color Line and the Listening Ear




EVENT: Jennifer Stoever 'The Sonic Color Line and the Listening Ear'

Liquid Architecture x un Projects

Sat, 25. Aug 2018
7 - 9pm
Florence Peel Centre
190 Young St, Fitzroy

For a very long time now, Amer­ica has — auda­ciously and impos­si­bly — labored under the illu­sion that it is a ​“col­or­blind” nation: that skin color simply ​“doesn’t matter” when it comes to employ­ment, or school­ing, or oppor­tu­nity of any sort. That it is pos­si­ble to ​“not see color” when it comes to inti­mate rela­tion­ships, to hiring or firing, to rent­ing a home, to polic­ing a neigh­bor­hood. And, more cyn­i­cally, that, in a market-driven nation, it our nation is only pos­si­ble — and prof­itable — when every­one sees only ​“green,” the color of dol­lars earned toward that Amer­i­can Dream, open to all, equally, pro­vided of course you can afford it.

But money and class have proven time and again not to be the great col­or­blind equal­izer for people of color, for whom suc­cess often means living and work­ing in pre­dom­i­nately white spaces, con­tend­ing with invis­i­ble racial pro­to­cols that deem their voices, speech, music and other cul­tural expres­sions of black­ness to be hyper­audi­ble noise: too loud, too inap­pro­pri­ate, too unpro­fes­sional, too dif­fer­ent, too much, too ratchet, too urban, too [insert white euphemism for ​“black” here]. Indeed, that’s exactly how these sonic signs of not-belong­ing oper­ate for the white people — as codes that allow them to politely sur­veille and legally police for black­ness, to con­tinue to objec­tify and mark black­ness as such and put it to heel, quiet it or seg­re­gate the people who make it out of their sound­scapes at will. And all this with­out using overt racial des­ig­na­tions, doing the work of racism while evad­ing the title.

In ​“Soni­fy­ing Race, Sur­veilling Space: The Sonic Color Line and the Lis­ten­ing Ear” scholar Jen­nifer Sto­ever will unset­tle the exclu­sive rela­tion­ship between race and look­ing that col­or­blind racism depends upon and show how lis­ten­ing works to police racial bound­aries in every­day life. explain the find­ings of her research on race, sound, and lis­ten­ing in the United States, first by intro­duc­ing the con­cept of the sonic color line — my term for the racial bound­aries anyone who grows up or spends much time in this coun­try is social­ized to hear and amplify — and then by using this con­cept to listen to racism in the US, show­ing why sound mat­ters in our con­tem­po­rary strug­gles against racism, sys­tem­at­i­cally in our class­room and court­rooms, and in our every­day inter­ac­tions in public places. Inter­weav­ing theory, archival research, analy­sis of court cases and viral videos, and rep­re­sen­ta­tions in pop­u­lar cul­ture, Sto­ever argues that that the only way that col­or­blind­ness could ever have taken root as a func­tion­ing ide­ol­ogy in a nation so riven with unre­paired and deeply his­tor­i­cal racial hier­ar­chies is because we hear America’s color lines as well as we see them, maybe even more so in a nation so stub­bornly insis­tent it is pos­si­ble — or even desir­able — for every­one to ​“over­look” race.

Fol­low­ing Jennifer’s lec­ture she will be in dis­cus­sion with Pro­fes­sor SUND­HYA PAHUJA, Direc­tor of Mel­bourne Law School’s Insti­tute for Inter­na­tional Law and the Human­i­ties (IILAH) and author of Decolonis­ing Inter­na­tional Law: Devel­op­ment, Eco­nomic Growth and the Pol­i­tics of Uni­ver­sal­ity (Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 2011).

JEN­NIFER STO­EVER is an Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor at SUNY Bing­ham­ton, where she teaches courses on African Amer­i­can lit­er­a­ture, sound stud­ies, and race and gender rep­re­sen­ta­tion in pop­u­lar music. She also is the project coor­di­na­tor for the Bing­ham­ton His­tor­i­cal Sound­walk Project, a multi-year archival, civi­cally-​engaged art project designed to chal­lenge how Bing­ham­ton stu­dents and year-round res­i­dents hear their town, them­selves, and each other. She is Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief for Sound­ing Out!: The Sound Stud­ies Blog and her book The Sonic Color Line: Race and the Cul­tural Pol­i­tics of Lis­ten­ing was pub­lished by New York Uni­ver­sity Press in 2016.

Presented in partnership with Liquid Architecture.