This article approaches the sonic turn as a coherent set of methodological approaches across a variety of disciplines that begin with the publication of Emily Thompson’s The Soundscape of Modernity (2002) and Jonathan Sterne’s The Audible Past (2003), and provide an alternative to the Saussurean edict to ignore the semiotic qualities of material sound. These texts and those published in their wake proceed with an emphasis on the detail of sound as an isolated object of study, but also sound as a more general principle of selection beyond “music” or “speech”; a reorientation to denaturalize hearing and reconceive listening practices as historically contingent, material, and social techniques; the need for a media archaeology that links technology and technique without falling into “impact histories” or “media determinism.” While the sonic turn can be capacious, the polemical approach taken in this essay opposes an uncritical affective “vibrational ontology” and a poststructuralist understanding of sound as supplement. Instead, the essay highlights the importance of scholarship that situates Black, Latin American, and disability studies as central to research into how audile techniques bring together the material and the symbolic to hear how historical cultures have constructed ontologies by separating sound from language in order to create and sustain hierarchies of power between the human and the nonhuman, the abled and the disabled, the lettered and the listeners.


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pp. 80-109
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