Jan 27th 2018

Jennifer Stoever discusses “The Sonic Color Line: Race and the Cultural Politics of Listening.” She will be joined in conversation by Tara Betts.

At 57th Street Books

About the book: Race is a visual phenomenon, the ability to see “difference.” At least that is what conventional wisdom has lead us to believe. Yet, “The Sonic Color Line” argues that American ideologies of white supremacy are just as dependent on what we hear—voices, musical taste, volume—as they are on skin color or hair texture. Reinforcing compelling new ideas about the relationship between race and sound with meticulous historical research, Jennifer Lynn Stoever helps us to better understand how sound and listening not only register the racial politics of our world, but actively produce them. Through analysis of the historical traces of sounds of African American performers, Stoever reveals a host of racialized aural representations operating at the level of the unseen—the sonic color line—and exposes the racialized listening practices she figures as “the listening ear.”

About the author: Jennifer Stoever received her Ph.D. in American Studies and Ethnicity from USC. She serves on the editorial boards of Sound Studies and Social Text. She has published in Social Text, Social Identities, Sound Effects, American Quarterly and Radical History Review, and Modernist Cultures among others. During 2011-2012, she was a fellow at The Society for the Humanities at Cornell University, participating in the research group on Sound: Culture, Theory, Politics. Currently an Associate Professor at SUNY Binghamton, Jennifer teaches courses on African American literature, sound studies, and race and gender representation in popular music. She also is the project coordinator for the Binghamton Historical Sound Walk Project, a multi-year archival, civically-engaged art project designed to challenge how Binghamton students and year-round residents hear their town, themselves, and each other. She is Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief for Sounding Out!: The Sound Studies Blog.

About the interlocutor: Tara Betts is the author of “Break the Habit and Arc & Hue.” She is also one of the co-editors of The Beiging of America: Personal Narratives About Being Mixed Race in the 21st Century. Her work has appeared in Poetry, American Poetry Review, Essence, Nylon, and numerous anthologies. She is working on a critical edition of Philippa Duke Schuyler’s long out-of-print memoir Adventures in Black and White. Betts holds a PhD in English from Binghamton University and a MFA in Creative Writing from New England College. She teaches at University of Illinois-Chicago and as part of the MFA faculty at Chicago State University.

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