Call for Papers: "Ordinary Oralities: Everyday Voices in History"
Histories of voice are often written as accounts of greatness: great statesmen, notable rebels, grands discours, and famous exceptional speakers and singers populate our shelves. This focus on the great and exceptional has not only led to disproportionate attention to a small subset of historical actors (powerful, white, western men and the occasional token woman), but also obscures the broad range of vocal practices that have informed, co-created and given meaning to human lives and interactions in the past. For most historical actors, life did not consist of grand public speeches, but of private conversations, intimate whispers, hot gossip or interminable quarrels. It also did not exclusively take place in the chambers of political power, or splashed across the columns of national newspapers. Most voices in history, as Arlette Farge notes in Essay pour une histoire des voix, left their traces only unwillingly, or not at all. The longstanding project of “recovering” the voices of the silenced or marginalized has tended to privilege voice as a metaphor for (stolen) human agency, at the expense of a thorough understanding of the practical materialities of ordinary uses of the voice.
In order to meaningfully include voices and vocal practices in our understanding of history, we suggest an extended practice of eavesdropping instead. Rather than listening out for exceptional voices, this volume calls for contributions that listen in on the more mundane aspects of vocality, including speech and song, but also less formalized shouts, hisses, noises and silences. Moving away from a narrative that centers the public voice, and its use as a political tool and metaphor, we aim to edge towards a history of voice as a history of encounter. Insisting on the intersubjective nature of voice, and its often uncanny ability to ‘travel’ across different personal, social and cultural divides, we aim toward an expansive history of everyday vocality, accounting for the multiplicity and materiality of historical voices. Along with Ana María Ochoa Gautier, we call for an “acoustically tuned exploration” of the archives, on the understanding that ordinary voices in history are not neatly proffered up by single documents, but are often fleeting and muted, and dispersed across textual sites with different stated purposes.
The volume therefore also aims … READ MORE