to Dec 4

Conference presentation: Listening beyond Crisis: attention, duration and endurance in how are you today?

I will be presenting a paper at the 2019 Law, Literature and Humanities Association of Australasia (LHAA) conference Law in End Times as part of a panel titled “how are you today: What can we hear beyond crisis, sound, and the carceral on Manus?with co-panelists James Parker (University of Melbourne) and Emma Russell (La Trobe University), with André Dao (Behind the Wire / University of Melbourne) as panel chair.

Presentation abstract: From the ‘stop the boats’ rhetoric of Operation Sovereign Borders to #KidsoffNauru and #BringThemHere to the 2018 Migration Amendment Bill (or ‘Medivac’ bill)—legal, discursive and spatiotemporal logics of crisis are used to both defend Australia’s offshore detention regimes in the name of state securitisation and appeal to humanist calls for empathy and compassion.  This logic of crisis presents a double harm: it obscures the ‘slow violence’ (Nixon, 2011) of the settler-colonial carceral state, and renders disposable those whose lives continue unnoticed within this uneven economy of attention.  Urgency and emergency construct some refugees/asylum seekers as objects of care and sympathy (such as children or those who qualify for ‘urgent medical treatment’ under the Medivac legislation); while others are endure in a state of unending suspension—reminders of the always-potential ‘threat’ to Australia’s (socio-political and imagined) borders.

This paper aims to listen beyond crisis, in response to the artwork and archive how are you today? (2018) made by the Manus Island Recording Project Collective and which consists of fourteen hours of audio recordings from Manus Island made over four months.  Focusing on attention, duration, and endurance, I argue how are you today? demands a more sustained and located politics of listening— one oriented not towards empathy or compassion, but which, as Bickford (1996) insists, accounts for the multiple ways we are positioned in and by structures of power.  In this way, it becomes possible to register the particular ‘zone of temporality’ (Berlant, 2007, 759) inhabited by the men on Manus—the ordinary and mundane moments, their ‘getting by and living on’.  Listening beyond crisis offers a way to hear how the enduring-ness of life on Manus—the solitude and suffering, but also the sociality and solidarity—testify to the very limits of what settler-colonial carceral logic and law can hear.

Panel description

Since 2013, nearly two thousand men have been indefinitely detained on Manus Island by the Australian Government after arriving in this country seeking asylum. When the Manus Regional Processing Centre was formally closed on 31 October 2017, after the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional, the men still detained there were forcefully evicted to new, smaller detention centers in Lorengau, the major town on Manus.

how are you today is a collaboration between some of these men on Manus – Farhad Bandesh, Behrouz Boochani, Samad Abdul, Shamindan Kanapathi, Kazem Kazemi and Abdul Aziz Muhamat – and Michael Green, André Dao and Jon Tjhia in Melbourne. The work was commissioned for Eavesdropping, an exhibition held at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, between July and October 2018. Every day for the fourteen weeks of the exhibition, one of the men on Manus made a sound recording and sent it ‘onshore’ for swift upload to the gallery. By the project’s end, there were eighty-four recordings in total, each ten minutes long. The result is an archive of fourteen hours—too large to synthesise, yet only a tiny fraction of the men’s ongoing interment. This panel explores that archive from a range of different perspectives. Each panelist interrogates what how are you today might say as an artwork and as an archive of evidence, in relation to the evolving forms and logics of off-shore detention, settler-colonial carcerality, and resistance to them.

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to Dec 6

Conference presentation: Dwelling in Discomfort: On the conditions of listening in settler colonial Australia

I will be presenting a paper at the 2019 Cultural Studies Association of Australia (CSAA) conference in Brisbane in December.

Title: Dwelling in Discomfort: On the conditions of listening in settler colonial Australia

Authors: Poppy de Souza (Griffith University) and Tanja Dreher (UNSW)

Abstract:  In this paper, we explore the conditions of listening and being heard in settler colonial Australia, prompted by the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart, to think through the politics and practices of listening required of non-Indigenous / settler Australians to register First Nations voices.  Extending Bickford’s (1006) work on political listening, and our own theorisation of located listening within a decolonial frame (Dreher and de Souza, 2018), we consider the ethical and affective dimensions – as well as the generative possibilities – of refusal, attunement, yielding and dwelling in discomfort.  We pay attention to how, as listening-oriented dispositions, they might prepare for a more contingent and ‘unsettled relationality’ (Bordreau Morris, 2017, 458), rather than one of settled residence, providing alternative possibilities for living together in the wake of colonisation with the sovereignty of First Nations people placed at its heart. 


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4:00 PM16:00

Conference presentation: Listening to (ear)witness Breathless the podcast: contesting carceral logics, sounding human dignity


From the indefinite detention of asylum seekers and refugees on former Australian colonial territories in offshore ‘black sites’ (Pugliese, 2013), to the over-incarceration and deaths in custody of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, racialised carceral logics and the surveillance of blackness (Browne, 2015) are at the heart of the settler-colonial Australian state.

This paper frames the Australian podcast series Breathless as a sonic media intervention that disrupts the norms of listening and attention that silence or sensationalise these modes of violence, contesting mainstream media representations. Made by community radio station 2SER in Sydney in partnership with independent media organisation Guardian Australia, Breathless bears witness to the life and death of young Dunghutti man David Dungay Jr. who died in Sydney’s Long Bay jail in 2015 from positional asphyxia following restraint and sedation by state correctional services officers. Breathless is part of an emerging model of collaborative podcasting that combines independent journalism, community radio, and grassroots activism to amplify the voices of those whose lives are impacted by state-sanctioned violence and incarceration. The podcast raises vital questions about the conditions of listening and being heard when the voices of First Nations people are silenced, discredited or ignored in mainstream media.

The podcast follows the 2018 coronial inquest into Dungay’s death, and walks alongside members of the Dunguay family whose campaign to raise awareness of Indigenous deaths in custody motivates their ongoing struggle for justice. Central to the inquest is prison CCTV footage of the last moments of Dungay’s life that captures him in a state of increasing duress. Repeatedly telling correctional services officers ‘I can’t breathe’, Dungay’s final words -- uttered twelve times like an incantation -- hauntingly echoes the last words of Eric Garner, the unarmed black man who died under restraint by police in 2014 in the United States.

Bringing an orientation towards sound into conversation with theoretical concepts of political listening (Bickford, 1996; Bassel, 2017; Dreher 2009, 2018), media witnessing (Lydon, 2018; Peters, 2001) and earwitnessing (Lloyd, 2009), this paper conducts a close listening of four episodes of Breathless to locate it within a larger ‘archive of breathlessness’ left in the wake of colonisation and violence (Sharpe, 2013). Listening along and against ‘the archival grain’ (Stoler, 2002), I attend to the sounds of Dungay’s death and the family’s grief, beyond the evidentiary framing of the CCTV footage. As a provocation to stretch the ear - to slow down, to listening again, to listen differently - I argue Breathless presses us to register the ‘continuity of colonial practices’ (Carlson et al. 2016) found in the details of David Dungay’s death, while attending to his dignity and the dignity of his family in its wake.


Bassel, L. (2017). Listening as Solidarity. In The Politics of Listening (71-87). Palgrave.

Bickford, S. (2018). The dissonance of democracy: Listening, conflict, and citizenship. Cornell University Press.

Carlson, B. L., Jones, L. V., Harris, M., Quezada, N., & Frazer, R. (2017). ‘Trauma, Shared Recognition and Indigenous Resistance on Social media’. Australasian Journal of Information Systems, 21.

Dreher, T. (2009). Listening across difference: Media and multiculturalism beyond the politics of voice. Continuum, 23(4), 445-458.

Lloyd, J. (2009). The listening cure. Continuum, 23(4), 477-487.

Lydon, J. (2018) Visualizing Human Rights. UWA Press.

Peters, J. D. (2009). Witnessing. In Media witnessing (23-48). Palgrave Macmillan.

Pugliese, J. (2013). State violence and the execution of Law: Biopolitcal caesurae of torture, black sites, drones. Routledge.

Sharpe, C. (2016). In the wake: On blackness and being. Duke University Press.

Stoler, A. L. (2010). Along the archival grain: Epistemic anxieties and colonial common sense. Princeton University Press.

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10:00 AM10:00

Conference presentation: Dwelling in Discomfort: On the Conditions of Listening in Settler Colonial Australia

Western Political Science Atssociation Conference April 2019

Panel Title: Conditions and Practices of Democratic Listening
Section: Political Theory and its Applications
Chair/Discussant: Susan Bickford
Paper 4:
Title:  Dwelling in Discomfort: On the Conditions of Listening in Settler Colonial Australia
Primary Author: Poppy de Souza 
Institutional Affiliation: Griffith University
Secondary Author: Tanja Dreher
Institutional Affiliation: University of New South Wales

Abstract: While critical scholarship on listening as a political practice has flourished in recent years, there remains much work to do on theorising political listening as a situated practice in specific contexts, including listening as a practice that might unsettle settler colonial relations. In this paper, we extend Susan Bickford’s pathbreaking work on political listening (1996) and our own theorisation of located listening in the Australian context (Dreher and de Souza, 2018) to offer provisional thoughts on the generative potential of refusal, discomfort, attunement and yielding. We take as our starting point the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart as a prompt and challenge for thinking about broader conditions of listening and being heard in settler colonial Australia. Culminating from the First Nations Constitutional Convention and following an unprecedented process of democratic deliberation among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives, the Uluru Statement clearly sets out the conditions of listening required in order for First Nations to be heard: a recognition of the authority and ontological primacy of First Nations peoples; a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament; and a Makarrata Commission to supervise agreement-making and local-level truth-telling. We argue it is vital to listen to Indigenous histories of refusal (rather than refusing to listen); to become more attuned to our differently located listening positions in response to the needs and desires of others; and ultimately yield to the authority of First Nations peoples to set the terms, frames and limits of recognition, within and beyond liberal and colonial logics. We suggest taking up responsibility to dwell in discomfort must also be part of the conditions of listening required to envision more just futures, with the sovereignty of First Nations people placed at its heart. Therefore, listening must be located within a decolonial framework to extend and unsettle conventional liberal democratic modes of deliberative listening.

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to Dec 5

Conference presentation: "Slow Listening and the Unsettling Ethics of Attention in Curtain the podcast"

I will be presenting a paper at the International Australian Studies Association (InASA) to be held 3-5 December 2018 in Brisbane.  The theme of this year's conference is "Unsettling Australia"

Presentation abstract:

Drawing on Lauren Berlant's (2007) notion of 'slow death' and the ethical framework of 'slow journalism', I develop a theory of slow listening as both unsettling and transformative through an examination of the Indigenous podcast Curtain. Curtain is an investigative podcast series made by Darumbal and South Sea Islander journalist Amy McQuire and Yuin man, Martin Hodgson, an activist and senior advocate with Foreign Prisoner Support Service and produced on a shoestring budget.  The series is explicitly committed to finding justice for Kevin Henry, an Aboriginal man imprisoned for over twenty-five years for murder and who has steadfastly maintained his innocence; and Lynda (last name withheld for cultural reasons), an Aboriginal woman, for whose murder Henry was tried and convicted.  To date, it has aired forty-eight episodes since October 2016, over twenty hours of podcast listening.

Beyond being an impressive piece of ongoing investigative journalism, I argue that Curtain must also be understood as an active intervention into the uneven economies of attention at work in a diversified and fragmented broadcasting (and podcasting) landscape.  Listening to Curtain demands an unsettling ethics of attention that disrupts an appetite for ‘binge’, ‘on demand’ and serialised media forms that sensationalise injustice.  Its open-ended commitment justice for the victims means that listeners used to narrative-driven, easily consumable, slickly produced media forms are not as easily engaged.

Slow listening then - in the case of Curtain - reflects a commitment from non-Indigenous audiences in particular to First Nations sovereignty and justice, while also refusing the logic of desire and consumption at the heart of the attention economy.


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2:00 PM14:00

Conference presentation: Slow Listening and the unsettling ethics of attention in 'Curtain' the podcast

I will present a paper at the upcoming Politics of Listening conference, which I am co-convening with Tanja Dreher at UNSW, Sydney.

Title: Slow listening and the unsettling ethics of attention in Curtain the podcast

Abstract: From the over-incarceration and deaths in custody of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to the indefinite detention of asylum seekers and refugees on former Australian colonial territories, racialised carceral logics and state-sanctioned violence are at the heart of the settler- colonial Australian state. In this context, recent Australian podcast series such as Bowraville, Unravel: Blood on the Tracks, The Messenger, Breathless, and Curtain can be understood as sonic interventions which register the conditions of structural and racial injustice. Combining longform journalism with the intimacy and immediacy the audio medium, these podcasts hold the potential to raise awareness, mobilise action and advocate for change. Yet they also circulate in an uneven economy of attention that privilege ‘binge’, ‘on demand’ and ‘serial’ listening modes and media forms that increasingly sensationalise injustice-as-entertainment.

This presentation focuses on an ethics of listening in response to Curtain, an independently produced podcast series made by Darumbal and South Sea Islander journalist Amy McQuire and Yuin man Martin Hodgson and which has broadcast over 60 episodes to date. Curtainexplores ‘the darkest parts of our criminal justice system’ and is committed to finding justice for Kevin ‘Curtain’ Henry, an Aboriginal man wrongfully incarcerated by the state of Queensland for over twenty-five years and currently ineligible for parole. Despite a dedicated First Nations and international audience, Australian audiences make up a small percentage of the podcast’s listenership, and the makers have expressed frustration at its limited media attention and non-Indigenous engagement. Responding to this concern, I bring an orientation towards sound into conversation with important scholarship on the politics of listening, and draw on critical temporalities of slowness (Berlant, 2007; Puar 2018) and endurance (Povinelli, 2011), to explore the multiple ways 'just hearings' in relation to First Nations struggles for justice are stalled, protracted and foreclosed. In paying attention to what gets in the way, I make a critical manoeuvre to register the conditions of life and labour for both the makers and subjects of the podcast, and gesture towards an ethics of slow listening that refuses the logic of desire and consumption at the heart of the attention economy.

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to Nov 30

The Politics of Listening symposium

Convened by Tanja Dreher (UNSW) and Poppy de Souza (Griffith University)

CALL FOR PAPERS. Abstracts due 30 June 2018.

Inspired by the recent ‘turn to listening’ in media studies, cultural studies and political theory, this two-day interdisciplinary symposium brings together scholars whose work engages with listening: as a political practice; as a critical frame; as an alternative politics; as a contribution to justice and/or as an ethics of relation.

As recent calls for a constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice to the Australian Parliament remind us, the ‘right to be heard’ and calls to listen are central to addressing ongoing injustice and inequalities.  The digital media environment offers proliferating opportunities for ‘voice’ and sharing stories, yet the attention economy works against the promise that previously marginalised voices will be heard. While politicians regularly embark on ‘listening tours’, public trust in processes of consultation and representation is minimal. The fundamental principle of disability activism – ‘nothing about us without us’ – demands that voices of disability be heard. Yet too often calls to listen are ignored or refused.  

Responding to these timely concerns, we invite critical contributions that engage with the politics of listening across a range of contexts and issues.  We particularly welcome papers and panel proposals that address:

  • Critical theories of listening: including theorising beyond liberalism, listening as a feminist politics, listening and agency, listening as labour, listening and justice (media justice, climate justice, acoustic justice etc), rethinking eavesdropping
  • Listening and settler colonialism: including First Nations voice and the right to be heard, Indigenous sovereignties, First Nations epistemologies of listening, listening and refusal, listening and decolonising methodologies, listening as solidarity
  • Listening and the politics of difference: including racism and anti-racism, ableism and disability, multiculturalism, counter and activist listening
  • Listening interventions: in art and activism, media, democracy, the politics of voice and representation, economies of attention

Pushing beyond liberal celebrations of voice and speech, attention to listening has foregrounded a commitment to responsibility, responsiveness, vulnerability and openness.  Critical scholarship in this area has done important work to shift responsibility for change from marginalised voices onto the institutions, practices and norms that condition who is heard, on whose terms, and to what effect.  Scholars also draw attention to the difficult work of listening, its potential to unsettle, and its crucial role in disrupting the uneven flows of power and privilege invested in unjust social and political arrangements. This symposium will foreground the politics of listening as a vital intervention in contemporary scholarship, activism and practice.

In addition to academic paper and panel proposals, we are interested in hearing from practitioners, activists and artists interested in proposing non-traditional forms or formats that respond to the above themes. Please get in touch with symposium conveners Tanja Dreher on or Poppy de Souza on prior to the submission date to discuss.

Leah Bassel (University of Leister) is confirmed as a featured speaker. Her most recent book is The Politics of Listening: Possibilities and challenges of democratic life (Palgrave, 2017).  Further invited speakers will be announced on the symposium website.

For individual papers, please submit a 250 word abstract and short bio (150 words).  For panel proposals (3-4 presenters), please also include the title of the panel and a brief description, along with panel abstracts.

Please submit paper and panel proposals by 30 June 20108 via the submission page of the website.

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12:00 PM12:00

Listening Routes to Justice - GSCSR 2018 Visiting Scholars Seminar Series

  • Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research, Griffith University (map)
  • Google Calendar ICS

My colleague Professor Tanja Dreher and I will present a seminar on the politics of listening at the Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research, Griffith University

Full event details:

The politics of listening can shift responsibility for more just futures from marginalized voices and on to the conventions, institutions and privileges which shape who and what can be heard in media. In this seminar we examine two recent innovations in First Nations media in order to sketch two key themes in the emerging scholarship on the politics of listening. 

First, we turn to the Twitter day of action, Indigenous Health May Day, in order to explore listening as a metaphor for political practice.  #IHMayDay invites non-Indigenous people to participate by listening to and amplifying First Nations voices within a decolonising framework which challenges deficit discourse. We then focus on sound in the Indigenous podcast Curtain, an ongoing investigative series centred on finding justice for Aboriginal man Kevin ‘Curtain’ Henry, and which examines Australia’s criminal justice system more broadly. Considering the intersection of listening aesthetics and ethics in Curtain, we explore the potential for ‘slow listening’ to disrupt neoliberal and settler-colonial temporalities and hierarchies of attention.

Taken together, we argue #IHMayDay and Curtain each encourage decolonised listening practices as routes to justice and more equitable futures, based in unsettling entrenched hierarchies of attention and catalysing new economies of voice. 


Dr Tanja Dreher is an ARC Future Fellow, UNSW Scientia Fellow and Associate Professor in Media at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. Tanja’s current research focuses on the politics of listening in response to community and activist media.  Tanja was a founding co-convenor of the Listening Project funded by the Australian Research Council Cultural Research Network (2008 - 2010) and is working on a monograph, Listening Across Difference: Media beyond the politics of voice. Tanja is visiting the centre during March to work with Poppy and Susan Forde.

Dr Poppy de Souza is an Adjunct Research Fellow with the Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research at Griffith University and a researcher with the University of Melbourne on the ARC Discovery project From Members to Leaders? Aboriginal Participation in Political Parties. Her scholarship critically engages with the ethics and politics of voice and listening in the context of changing media technologies, everyday cultural production, representational politics and political transformation, with a focus on sites of struggle, resistance and innovation.  Her work has been published in Media, Culture & Society and Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies.

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8:30 AM08:30

Acoustic Justice workshop and roundtable

I will be presenting some of my research on acoustic violence, the 'white ear' and hearing racism at a roundtable workshop on Acoustic Justice at the Melbourne Law School, with scholars from a range of disciplines to explore the juridical dimensions of sound and listening and the acoustic dimensions of law and justice.

The event is organised by Dr James Parker, Institute for International Law and the Humanities
Melbourne Law School in conjunction with Mehera San Roque at UNSW Law.

On Saturday 15 July, as part of a series of events relating to acoustic justice, Liquid Architecture is hosting "A courtroom is not a gallery":

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11:30 AM11:30

Conference Presentation: What Does Injustice Sound Like? The dynamics of racism, acoustic violence and the booing of Adam Goodes

I will be presenting a conference paper at the Crossroads in Cultural Studies Conference 2016, taking place on December 14-17, Sydney.

Title: What does injustice sound like? The dynamics of racism, acoustic violence and the booing of Adam Goodes

Abstract: At the height of public debate last year surrounding the sustained booing of Indigenous AFL footballer Adam Goodes, mainstream media attention focused on whether this was, or was not, a display of racially motivated behaviour - with predictable responses from all sides. Amongst this cacophony of voices, two stood apart in identifying what we might call the 'acoustic violence' of systemic racism. To the untrained ear, distinguishing a ‘boo’ from a ‘boo’ may be difficult, but to those systematically exposed to its injurious effects, parsing this distinction can be a necessary act of survival. Taking as its starting point responses from Waleed Aly and Stan Grant expressed at the time, and drawing on Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s notion of ‘forensic listening’, this paper develops a political framework for listening beyond speech that challenges colonial power and the uneven distribution of attention in the context of Indigenous-settler relations and ongoing struggles for justice.

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9:30 AM09:30

Conference presentation: Reconstructing the ‘story of you’: listening and personal biometrics

Conference paper presented as part of the two-day symposium "Tap, swipe, scan, submit! Interrogating Media Devices", 7-8 July 2016, School of Communication and Arts, University of Queensland.

Title: Reconstructing the ‘story of you’: listening and personal biometrics

Abstract: In recent years, listening has undergone a dramatic transformation. In this presentation I consider two emerging modes of listening biometric and algorithmic listening that epitomise how listening works in our post-convergent, post-Snowden, post-privacy moment. Increasingly deployed through highly technical and often obscure systems of regulation and control, these modes of listening are used to reconstruct the very stories and narrative accounts of ordinary citizens through the narrative order of their metadata. The ubiquity of personal digital devices like smartphones and wearable technologies extends these modes of listening into intimate realms. I consider how the rise and uptake of self-quantification and lifestyle monitoring devices expose users to biometric and algorithmic listening practices that mine and extract personal biometrics and aggregated metadata to reconstruct the ‘story of you’. 

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4:00 PM16:00

Aural Contract: The voice before the law (curated by Liquid Architecture for Melbourne Festival)

SUN 18 Oct 2015
Australian Centre for the Moving Image
Federation Square, Flinders St, Melbourne


At Melbourne Festival, Liquid Architecture will present a series of audio documentaries from Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s Aural Contract as a ‘live listening event’ in the cinema setting. THe event will also include talks by researchers James Parker and Poppy de Souza that will further develop themes around the politics of listening.

Poppy's talk will theorise "listening economies of extraction" and asks “how listening works, and what listening does, in our post-convergent, post-Snowden, post-privacy moment.”


Lawrence Abu Hamdan's (b. 1985, Amman, Jordan) work examines the contemporary politics of listening—its relationship to power, borders, human rights, testimony and truth—through the production of audio documentaries and essays, installations, sculpture, photography, and performance.

Dr James Parker is a lecturer at Melbourne Law School, where he is also director of the research program ‘Law, Sound and the International’ at the Institute for International Law and the Humanities. James’ monograph  Acoustic Jurisprudence: Listening to the Trial of Simon Bikindi (OUP, 2015) looks at the trial of Simon Bikindi, who was accused by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda of inciting genocide with his songs. James' current research explores legal questions around the weaponisation of sound across three main sites: the battlefield, the torture chamber and the city. James is also an active music critic and radio broadcaster.

Poppy de Souza is an interdisciplinary scholar and cultural practitioner who has worked in curatorial, educational, archival, community arts and academic contexts.  Both her research and practice are concerned with the politics of 'voice'.  Her work investigates the relationship between new assemblages of technology, everyday forms of cultural production, and the contemporary conditions of 'voice poverty'.  Poppy has recently completed her PhD "Beyond Voice Poverty: New Economies of Voice and the Frontiers of Speech, Listening and Recognition" through the University of Melbourne.

More details:

Melbourne Festival

Liquid Architecture

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