Touching Listening: The Aural Imaginary in the World Music Culture Industry

Focusing on Kinship Records and the two years of ethnographic fieldwork I performed there, this essay develops the theory of the “aural imaginary” in an effort to deconstruct the centrality of racialized gender to the formation of the American world music culture industry. In doing so, I illuminate an aural imaginary particular to the production of a market for world music in the United States, suggesting ways to understand how this market is being consolidated, and considering some of the implications of its existence and functioning. While many studies of “world music” have focused on the construction of difference through the packaging of exoticized others for Western listeners, this essay explores “world music” as a construction of U.S. listening practices and sonic fantasy.