From the late nineteenth century onwards, the ‘masses’ erupted onto the European political stage and in the turbulent decades before and after the First World War, political movements of different stripes sought to harness, channel or restrict their perceived power. While the propagandising and political theatre of fascism is perhaps the most well-known for its use of sound, the use of sonic techniques stretched across the political spectrum, and was not limited to the rhetoric of political leaders. From choreographed rallies to the silence of commemoration, from heckling at meetings to the singing of songs, audiences, crowds and demonstrators were also active participants and contributors to the soundscapes of politics. In this way, sound was integral to the embodied experience – both individual and collective – of mass politics. This experience is impossible to disentangle from the concurrent technological revolution in mass political communication in the form of radio and amplified sound. This reached its logical apogee in the Europe of ‘extremes’ in the form of the armoured ‘speaker-lorries’ used to weaponise propaganda during the Spanish Civil War.
This one-and-a-half-day symposium will be an informal forum to discuss on-going research and common themes and approaches with the aim of developing transnational comparisons and sharing methodological concerns that can contribute to rethinking the role of sound in politics in modern Europe.
Possible themes include:
Rhetoric and oratory
The politics of silence and the politics of ‘noise’
Reverberation, resonance, echoing
Technology, including amplification and radio
Space, e.g. theatres, stadia, streets, parliaments
Psychological theories of the ‘mass’
The politics of ‘shouting’ and other forms of sonic interpellations and disruptions
Call and response, acclamation, and audience-speaker dynamics
The mass vs the individual
Challenges or failures to communicate; excessive sound/noise
The one-and-a-half-day symposium will take place in the Universidad de Granada’s historic Corrala de Santiago on 9 and 10 June 2022. The symposium will consist of panels of short papers and close with an open discussion forum at midday on 10 June with a view to discussing a possible collective publication or future collaborative endeavours. Funding has been secured for two nights of accommodation and there are limited funds available to subsidise travel costs, although participants are kindly requested to draw on other funding where possible. The opportunity to present remotely using video-calling software will be available.
Please submit 300-word abstracts and a short biographical note to Dr Matthew Kerry at firstname.lastname@example.org by 25 March 2022. Scholars at all career stages, from graduate studies onwards, are warmly encouraged to submit their ideas. The working language will be English.
This symposium is funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh as part of a Saltire Research Fellowship held by Matthew Kerry at the University of Granada.