5 March 2022

Listening to Voices of Difference: History, Theory, and Praxis

Part of Coming to Know

A workshop with Tanvi Solanki

Starts 0:30 pm

Ends 2:00 pm

Venue A4 Space

Warehouse 4

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We discuss the German philological tradition’s relationality to difference, both historical and cultural, which was in large part rooted in theories and practices of listening. Defining ‘philology’ broadly as primarily text-based practices of collecting, transcribing, classifying, interpreting, storing, and recording voices and sounds deemed by ‘lettered elites’ (Ochoa) as human or ‘cultural’ or non-human, creaturely or ‘blackened’ (Jackson). We will use material from this tradition to conceptualize ‘listening to difference,’ tracing moments of a variety of encounters between textually bound scholars and ‘voices of difference’ with which they frequently had agonistic relations of resistance and repression. I theorise ‘listening to difference,’ as a practice which involves an awareness of how our separate positionalities based on institutional and inherited power and privilege conditions the habits of our ears and entrained privileging of certain accents, timbres, and tone. This links to the effects of various modalities of ‘listening to difference’ – some foreclosing the practice, some open to its possibilities – in the present in the modern university setting, which emerges from the tradition of German philology.

The concept of listening to difference will be put into practice via an analysis of a selection of digitized audio recordings of one-on-one conversations between family members, friends, and colleagues, originally recorded and broadcast by local BBC radio stations as part of “The Listening Project,” now archived at the British Library. We will focus specifically on conversations between asylum seekers and refugees, and their varying relations to British English. C I considering moments such as the numerous interruptions by a British recordist in a conversation between two young Somalian siblings whose family arrived in the UK to flee persecution,. lListeners collectively have the opportunity to hear not only the standard British English speaker’s biases, but that of automatic speech recognition software, spectrograms, and their own.

Presented by Alserkal Arts Foundation in collaboration with the Department of Classics, Princeton University. Made possible by Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Tanvi Solanki is Assistant Professor of German and Comparative Literature at Yonsei University’s Underwood International College. Previously, she was a Stanford H. Taylor Postdoctoral Associate at Cornell University, after receiving her Ph.D. at Princeton University and B.A. at the University of Chicago. A guiding concern of her work is to develop innovative, critical methodologies to study the sensory and embodied dimensions of German literature, culture, and media, particularly that of sound. Throughout her work, she foregrounds how concepts and practices of ‘difference,’ ‘diversity’ and ‘alterity’ can and must be productively deployed within readings of the German literary and philosophical canon. She is currently finishing a book manuscript on ‘Listening to Difference,’ a critical disciplinary history of media studies which explores how and why practices of knowledge-making and pedagogy which emerged from the German philological tradition during the origins of the research university remain current in certain disciplinary approaches in the ‘modern’ university.