Call for Papers | The role of sound in the construction of boundaries, identities and senses of belonging to the city” | @ “Sensing the city. Power, people, place” conference | Antwerp, Belgium, 6-8 July 2020 |

Organizers: Ana Aceska and Karolina Doughty, Wageningen University, the Netherlands

Deadline: 15. March 2020

The sounds we hear in the city contribute to our senses of belonging and identity. Through sound and sonic experiences cities offer ground for boundary work along lines of religion, class, ethnicity, gender and other categories of difference. The sounds in the city and how we perceive them are mediated through cultural, political and economic relations and they are implicated in ordering and bordering things, ideas, people, identities, places and landscapes. In contested spaces, for example, sounds of other ethnic and religious communities may generate feelings such as fear or intolerance. Some sounds might function as markers of territory or they might inspire an ad hoc classification of others. Sounds govern, include or exclude through a wide range of technologies and media in the city and may be associated with material structures that facilitate the boundary-work, such as places of worship or border check points. Sounds can also challenge dualistic conceptions that divide “us” from “them”, the rural from the urban, humans from non-humans. Sound, as leaky and diffuse, highlight the sensorial porosity of bodies and materials. By virtue of sound’s acousmatic and atmospheric qualities, as Steven Connor (1997, p.206) points out, ‘the most distinguishing feature of auditory experience [is] its capacity to disintegrate and reconfigure space’. Thus, by paying attention to the creation and/or experience of sound in cities, we reveal alternative ways of reading urban relations. Sonic processes and practices, in their capacity to affect, have ‘the potential to reconfigure listeners’ relationships to place, to open up new modes of attention and movement, and in so doing to rework places’ (Gallagher 2015, p.468).

In this panel we ask how sound, in its capacity as a ‘sensory-spatial process of interaction’ (Hagood, 2019: 28), works to build, cross, negotiate or change boundaries, identities and senses of belonging. How do individuals create communities of shared affect through sound? How are differences enacted or contested through sound and sonic practices? How do particular city soundscapes function as part of the broader landscape? What does the conception of certain sounds as ‘noise’ reveal about the social? How are boundaries affected by and resultant in unequal access to varieties of sonic experiences? How do forms of exclusion affect who has access to what kinds of sounds in our cities? These are just some of the questions that surface when we begin to explore the city through sound.

The ways in which boundaries are created, enforced, transgressed or dismantled in the city have been of interest to urban scholars for decades. We invite scholars to reflect on what attention to sound may bring to analyzes of embodied and felt experiences in the constitution of boundaries, identities and senses of belonging. Contributions can be theoretical, empirical, inter/cross/multi-disciplinary, or methodological.

We invite papers that explore sound in relation to topics including, but not limited to:

  • boundary-making, senses of belonging and identity-formation
  • shaping ‘affective economies’ (Ahmed 2004) through which specific communities of shared emotions and attitudes are formed
  • sonic events that shape urban soundscapes, such as church bell ringing, calls to prayer, street performers etc.
  • the conception and/or the experience of ‘noise’
  • how certain groups (religious, ethnic, poor) enter the spaces of others through sound
  • how citizens experience the fragmentary realities of the city through sound
  • how certain groups use sound to show their presence in the city
  • sound as an instrument to convey ideological values
  • how different types of audio technologies are embedded into processes of boundary making
  • the role of sound in processes or experiences of commodification / touristification / regeneration / gentrification of urban spaces
  • new/emerging methods to research the role of sound in urban settings
  • relations between sound, sonic practices and material infrastructures

    If you are interested, please submit an abstract of max 250 words:

    For more information: and