Through an examination of four contrasting moments of public intervention, we investigate the sonic and cultural implications of “making a scene”—a style of social engagement that draws attention and exceeds expectations of the normative social functions of a particular space. The act of making a scene serves as an avenue for understanding the broad and simultaneous trends toward heightened stratification and political polarization that exhibit a desire to be heard. Be it in the form of impromptu street performances, protests, or riots—which range from exhilarating to terrifying—the desire to be heard can be conceived as a rejection of the liberal values of rational-critical discourse through the radical implementation of voice and sound as a means of temporarily appropriating space and redefining place. Reorienting social activity into a heightened emotive terrain, such acts short-circuit the quotidian, serving to incorporate strangers and force social engagement that would otherwise be unlikely to occur. Building upon and complicating notions of voice as expressive of identity and political agency, we posit that voice serves to transform emotional dynamics through an engagement with the physical qualities of space and its acoustic-vibrational possibilities. Capturing attention through expressive inflections of difference, making a scene momentarily flips the social logics of a place, revealing public space as a site of contestation characterized by the unequal flow and uneven habitability of different bodies and voices.

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