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Title: Aural contract : investigations at the threshold of audibility
Author: Abu Hamdan, Lawrence
ISNI:       0000 0004 7232 2180
Awarding Body: Goldsmiths, University of London
Current Institution: Goldsmiths College (University of London)
Date of Award: 2018
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There are many studies dedicated to speech politics, yet the politics of listening remains an underdeveloped area of research. The conditions by which judges, lawyers, police, legislators, and witnesses listen—especially given the increasing employment of forensic audio technologies— deserve closer inspection. This practice-based PhD thesis investigates the political and legal implications of radically new modes of listening, recording, and audio analysis that have emerged since the mid-1980s. It borrows strategies from forensic audio analysis and art to map out the contemporary thresholds of audibility—both human and machinic—as new cultural and political frontiers where issues of subjecthood, citizenship, and testimony are being defined. This thesis is situated at the intersection of art, science, and advocacy, and as such each of the three chapters, together with the methodological introduction, develop their argumentation through a variety of means. The written component develops a historical and theoretical analysis of the ways in which we listen, while in the practice portfolio I test these propositions through both audiovisual artworks and investigative sonic experiments. The textual and practical dimensions are thus mutually constitutive: the historical and theoretical enquiry feeds into the practice, while the practice interrogates and attempts to materially implement these critical assumptions as political audio investigations for human and civil rights. In analysing the thresholds of sound and voice, we recurrently encounter forms of border-crossing, be they material, juridical, sensorial, or conceptual. In Chapter 1 we see the ways in which the voice transgresses the borders between states, both national and ontological. Chapter 2 discusses the blur between foreground and background, sound and noise. In Chapter 3 the way sounds bleed through the walls of a building leads us to the seepage between sound, sight, and touch. The title Aural Contract refers to a shift from the oral to the aural, and from a contract between speaking subjects towards a new set of propositions for the conditions by which we listen to one another and can produce audible evidence. With this shift of analysis from speaking to listening, new modes of political subjectivity emerge; a new spectrum of sounds and silences by which we can make audible those at the threshold of politics—the political prisoner, the colonised, the ghettoised, and the migrant.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral