Listening and Knowledge in Nineteenth-Century Colombia


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Book Pages: 280 Illustrations: 3 illustrations Published: November 2014

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Latin American Studies > Andes, Music > Ethnomusicology

In this audacious book, Ana María Ochoa Gautier explores how listening has been central to the production of notions of language, music, voice, and sound that determine the politics of life. Drawing primarily from nineteenth-century Colombian sources, Ochoa Gautier locates sounds produced by different living entities at the juncture of the human and nonhuman. Her "acoustically tuned" analysis of a wide array of texts reveals multiple debates on the nature of the aural. These discussions were central to a politics of the voice harnessed in the service of the production of different notions of personhood and belonging. In Ochoa Gautier's groundbreaking work, Latin America and the Caribbean emerge as a historical site where the politics of life and the politics of expression inextricably entangle the musical and the linguistic, knowledge and the sensorial.


"Speaking from the intersection of sound studies, Latin American studies, and the history of natural history and musicology, this book shifts the terrain upon which all of those fields have comfortably settled. Scholars of sound studies will need to take note of Ochoa’s challenges to European or North American framings." — Alejandra Bronfman, Hispanic American Historical Review

“Gautier’s work is tremendously useful. A challenging and rewarding read, I recommend her work to persons who are seriously interested in new approaches to retelling the history of any nation.” — Julian Ledford, AmeriQuests

"Aurality is a significant contribution to the burgeoning field of sound studies. Ana Maria Ochoa Gautier adeptly guides the reader across complex scales of analysis using well-selected historical case studies.... Aurality achieves its goal of establishing a critical vantage point for making sense of the contemporary transformations that are shaping the 21st." — William Hope, American Ethnologist

"Ochoa Gautier provides a vitally important account of the intricate and heterogeneous modes of knowing, being, becoming, and belonging that continue to resonate in the postcolonial lettered city."  — Leonardo Cardoso, American Anthropologist

"[T]he book demonstrates the potentially transformative effect on the way in which we understand the politics of knowledge which can come by starting from speech (or sound) rather than from writing, and from attending to listening as well as to reading." — Miles Ogborn, Journal of Historical Geography

"The volume is a must for enthusiasts of sound studies and/or Colombian history. Ochoa Gautier has done a fine job chronicling the way in which the aural played a key role in the definition of a relation between humankind and the body politics of the nation-state. It deserves wide recognition and ample endorsement." — Héctor Fernández L'Hoeste, EIAL

"The volume is a must for enthusiasts of sound studies and/or Colombian history. Ochoa Gautier does a fine job chronicling the way in which the aural played a key role in the definition of a relation between humankind and the body politics of the nation-state." — Héctor Fernández L’Hoeste, Anthropos

"This book provides new understandings of listening to voice. It also casts the linguistic and political history of the American continent under new light by putting a microphone to new 'sounds' and adding more layers to the aural turn’s contribution to the humanities. Ochoa Gautier’s Aurality is also an invitation to consider the exclusion of certain regions and intellectual figures in the written history of ethnomusicology, a history in which Latin American sound and culture remain marginal.... Her positioning, her methodology, and her relevant choice of theories are only some of the reasons behind the honors this book has already earned." — Maria Natalia Bieletto Bueno, Ethnomusicology

"This book raises important questions about the role of sound and efforts to categorise it in defining the relationship between the human and the non-human, and between different social groups within Colombian society.... Aurality will undoubtedly serve the specialist researcher well and it is to be hoped that the rich lines of inquiry it opens up will receive further attention in future." — Anna Cant, Journal of Latin American Studies

"Aurality is a rich and complex book that raises important questions about colonialism and modernity, personhood and nation. Ochoa Gautier has made an important contribution to Colombian historiography, certainly meeting her aim to explore 'the relationship between listening and the voice as a part of the history of the relation between the colonial and the modern'.  . . . It will be difficult to read history in the same way again." — Meri L. Clark, The Latin Americanist

"Aurality shows how hearing, writing, speech, and song were central to the constitution of modern personhood in the nineteenth century. Using Colombia as her grounding point, Ana María Ochoa Gautier explores the ways that colonial intellectuals, creoles, and indigenous people spoke, sung, and wrote across difference as they struggled to establish new kinds of political subjectivity and nationality. Based in deep, creative readings of primary source materials, and steeped in anthropological and cultural theory, Aurality is an erudite, challenging, and rewarding book. It offers a vital alternative to a literature that has too often taken Western Europe and anglophone North America as points of historical departure. Aurality will transform our understandings of the human and the animal; nation and citizenship; music and language; speech and writing; and modernity itself." — Jonathan Sterne, author of MP3: The Meaning of a Format

With generous voice and incisive ears, Aurality offers us the gift of listening to and through multiple histories, eavesdropping into a Colombian 19th-century archive in whose seemingly muted vociferations Ana María Ochoa Gautier hears nothing less than the clamor of the political-sensorial genealogy of the Latin American, Caribbean, and global present. Hearing, listening, speaking, writing, and voicing all emerge here as ontological wagers on life, on personhood, and on human - non-human relations. But this is no celebration of the sonorous, it is a most critically sober and theoretically eloquent call that we listen in order to think Latin American (and global) modernity and coloniality again for the first time.
— Jairo Moreno, author of Musical Representations, Subjects, and Objects


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Ana María Ochoa Gautier is Associate Professor of Music and Director of the Center for Ethnomusicology at Columbia University. She is the author of several books in Spanish.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface and Acknowledgments ix

Introduction. The Ear and the Voice in the Lettered City's Geophysical History 1

1. On Howls and Pitches 31

2. On Popular Song 77

3. On the Ethnographic Ear 123

4. On Vocal Immunity 165

Epilogue. The Oral in the Aural 207

Notes 215

References 231

Index 252
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Co-Winner, 2015 Alan Merriam Prize, presented by the Society for Ethnomusicology

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5751-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5736-0
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