Sounds of Trauma


  • Malini Sur Western Sydney University



Borders, Sound, Voice, Trauma, Displacement


This article explores the sounds of trauma in anthropology. I ask: when, where, and under what circumstances do unmoored sounds and voices gain salience in anthropology? In particular, can methodological insights prepare anthropologists for the intense military scrutiny that societies endure in violent borderlands? Recalling the long tradition of orality in anthropology, I suggest that the slippery registers of sound and voice in trauma is generative not only of location and culture, but also of a perennial sense of dislocation. Writing anthropology demands the iterative re-dwelling and reliving of sound and voice that continually haunt, emerge, flow, and resurface across different stages of ethnographic labour. Disembodied sounds and voices generate indescribable languages. Based on my long term ethnographic fieldwork in the Northeast India-Bangladesh borderlands, I show how sensory modalities not only nourish divergent possibilities of meaning and emplacement but also register impasses of interpretation and displacement.


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