Unintelligible: Noise Against Capture

March 02, 2018

April 20 - April 23

Graduate student conference exploring the potentials of a critical sound studies.

Keynote: Jeramy DeCristo (Assistant Professor in American Studies, UC Davis)

Since the 1970s, numerous scholars have engaged the discipline of Sound Studies through critical frameworks exploring race, class and gender. As Kara Keeling and Josh Kun suggest in their 2012 anthology Sound Clash, this developing interest in the field of Sound Studies exists alongside a larger project in the humanities “to dismantle hierarchies of knowledge production and critical thought,” especially among scholars working in cultural studies, feminism, queer studies, and critical race and ethnic studies (447). Our goal with this conference is to cultivate an interdisciplinary understanding of the field of Sound Studies, as well as actively contribute to the development of critical research that unsettles dominant discourses inside the field.

To that end we are taking up the ubiquitous sonic trope of noise, considering its counter-productive character, and asking how it can be a tactic for critique against the capture of individuals and communities of resistance. Jennifer Lynn Stoever describes noise as a “shifting analytic” that “renders certain sounds—and the bodies that produce and consume them — as Other” (67). This conference will look at how such “Others” are produced by noise—or conversely how noise is an index of that process—and how culturally specific forms produce counter-public spheres. Can we understand subjects, objects, ideas, and events that destabilize normativity to be a kind of noise? Can noise understood as a negation in its many derogatory connotations (“disruptive,” “illegible,” “unintelligible”) still be productive as a counter-hegemonic device? What is the consequence of obscuring the materiality of noise, and how do we resist (or at least slow) the impulse to turn noise into a metaphor?

This conference is organized by Counter-Production: Noise as Critical Research, a UCHRI-funded interdisciplinary working group of sound scholars from across the University of California system.

Co-sponsored by UCHRI, Institute for the Arts and Sciences, Institute for Humanities Research, the Dickens Project, and History of Consciousness.