Audibilities: Documentary and Sonic Governance


LAC Burkhardt




For residence at the Center for Media, Culture, and History at New York University during academic year 2020-2021


“Audibilities” fundamentally rethinks a basic documentary tenet—“giving voice to the voiceless”—by scrutinizing the humanitarian habits of listening that documentary media endorse when they beckon audiences to hear disenfranchised subjects. Documentary teaches us that listening is the highest ethical act. Listening, we are told, brings the voiceless into the domain of audibility, where their humanity can be evidenced, heard, and recognized. “Audibilities” challenges this belief. Interdisciplinary by design, the project analyzes marginalized oral and aural practices alongside critical theories of race, language, and disability. In attending to what is not immediately audible as a voice, this study paves a path for a more expansive listening and documentary praxis that embraces mutual dependency and mediation.