The "Noisy Sphere": Sonic Geographies in the Era of Globalization
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While many geographers have studied the role of music and sound in the construction of space, place, and identity, very few have studied noise as a political player in systems of governance (exceptions: Matless 2002; Connell & Gibson 2004; Saldahna 2005; and Revill 2013), and none have examined noise’s function in the social reproduction of capitalism. This thesis develops a method for studying noise in both of these capacities. In particular, I look at how noise is conceived and implemented in several different artifacts, including an ethnography on noise in the English hospice (Chapter 2), US legislation on noise control (Chapter 3), noise complaints from Seattle residents (Chapter 4), and the scientific practices and technologies used in measuring the “soundscape”(Chapter 5). My analysis of these “sonic worlds” focuses on the ways in which the treatment of noise reinforces, obscures, and challenges dominant social relations. In all my sources, I find a general shift around 1970, not only in how noise figures within the logics of governance but also in assumptions of ontology. For a range of histories and geographies, noise helps trace the emergence of an ideology that Alain Badiou (2013a) calls “democratic materialism.” I explore the political consequences of this ideology in the context of each “sonic world”—how it is constructed, in part, through sound and how it works to obscure relations of domination under global capitalism. In the end, I offer some (sonic) strategies of resistance for how we might use sound to map the possibilities of a ruptural present.
- Geography