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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.