Widely discussed among scholars of cities in Africa is the need to conceive these cities as relational formations, but rarely is the sensory addressed. Scholarship on urban soundscapes has tended to emphasize aesthetic and technological practices without grappling with their aural political import. This article brings together these conversations in order to address the intersections of urban sound and politics in a small Ugandan city. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in the city of Gulu, the author examines how young Acoli men use aural, expressive social practices to sonically rework the city and their place in it. Referencing the work of ethnomusicologists, anthropologists, and critical theorists concerned with sound, the author argues that practices of “expressive sociability” elaborate a relational politics of city-making vis-à-vis their intimate exchanges that cross-fade with urban street soundscapes. This work aims to amplify the importance of ordinary aural practices to conceiving political valences of relational life in global south cities.
Cross-fading the City: Expressive Sociability as Relational Politics in Gulu, Uganda
Joella Bitter received a PhD in cultural anthropology from Duke University with a Certificate in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies. Prior to Duke, Joella earned an MA from The New School for Social Research. She is currently Lecturer at the University of Virginia.
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Joella Bitter; Cross-fading the City: Expressive Sociability as Relational Politics in Gulu, Uganda. Resonance 1 March 2021; 2 (1): 74–88. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/res.2021.2.1.74
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