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CONCLUSION The Animanities I began this book with the sound of a song sparrow. A century ago, naturalist Ferdinand Schuyler Mathews heard one of these birds singing opera tunes from Verdi’s Rigoletto. Today, ornithologists describing the same species hear a loud clanking sound.1 These are striking differences: one listener hears operatic melody, while another hears clanking. Why do these reports of the same species differ? What does it mean to claim a shared musical identity for these two sparrows in the first place? And why would two human listeners hear that identity in such different ways? In this book, I have argued that the way sound is evaluated is related to the ways animals are valued, and that sonic culture as we know it is unthinkable without those animal lives. I began with the Darwin-Spencer debates about animal personhood in the late nineteenth century. From that starting point, I traced the practice of preserving and comparing songs into the natural history museum, the field, and the laboratory. In the second half of my book, I examined a dramatic shift in notions of sonic identity that emerged in response to postwar reassessments of racial identity. The resulting separation between sonic studies of human culture and animal nature continues to define aural identity in a postwar, postmodern world. I want to conclude my book with a disruptive and unruly intrusion upon the past century’s theories of cultural identity with a made-up discipline, “the animanities.” Una Chaudhuri once suggested that the proliferation of neologisms by animal studies scholars is the symptom of a shared desire to radically intervene in the established discourse of aesthetic meaning.2 Zoontology, zoopolis, petropolis, carno-phallogocentrism, and zooanthropology made her list of neologophilia, in addition to zooësis, her own word at the intersection of performance studies and animal studies.3 Occasionally such disruptive neologisms have visited music Conclusion 169 studies in the form of zoomusicology, ornithomusicology, and ecomusicology.4 I add my own contribution to this “shared program of creative disciplinary disturbance” in the form of the study of living culture in a more-than-human world, the animanities.5 An amalgam of the anima- of animals and -manities of the humanities, the animanities are an intervention in the postwar, postmodern, posthuman condition of present-day humanism. The problems of musical knowledge described in this book are not answered by the disciplinary boundaries of the humanities. As I have suggested earlier in these pages, the dyad of science and humanism is conditioned by a history in which the subject matter of the arts and sciences has been defined against and through notions of difference as a universalizing category, a category for which the animal has been the exemplary case. In the aftermath of World War II, geneticists and anthropologists reimagined race in relation to Nazi politics, obscuring many of the ways in which difference continued to operate at the intersection of species, race, and culture. The central gesture of the animanities, then, is to reach with a laugh toward a revision of the way that notions of difference define the humanities against this limiting benchmark of human singularity. The humanities are premised on a singularity of human identity that divides cultural knowledge from animal biology. In this book, I have located that division in postwar revisions of genetics and cultural anthropology inspired by a backlash against racism. The architects of those revisions attempted to distance intellectual work in the West from problematic racial taxonomies. But they did not address the ways that difference itself was conceptualized and measured against interconnected notions of species, race, and culture. Nor did they successfully disentangle the traditions of knowledge-making that framed personhood as contested, leaving some people as unmarked, neutral “humans” and others as deeply different. In the past several decades, work in posthumanism has called much-needed attention to the culture/nature divide that defines the humanities. It has inspired me in my own work and in the writing of this book, and, like humanism, it is a part of my intellectual heritage. But posthumanism and its allies in object-oriented ontology, new materialism, and related trends also perpetuate the problems that I worry over in this book. As a disciplinary intervention, recent posthumanism has sometimes reinforced, rather than resisted, the erasure of racial politics from the culture/nature divide, locating itself in seemingly unmarked discursive traditions that on closer examination come from white, European, masculine 170 Animal Musicalities voices. As a loosely defined...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780819578082
Related ISBN
9780819578068
MARC Record
OCLC
1027733446
Pages
264
Launched on MUSE
2018-05-15
Language
English
Open Access
No
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