Entering into Conversation about the Sound of Democracy

Sound of Democracy is a joint project of the Institute for Human Sciences (Vienna) in collaboration with the Albert Hirschman Center on Democracy, Graduate Institute (Geneva), and the Research Group on Soft Authoritarianism (University of Bremen).

This blog post is a contribution by a team of linguists at the University of Bremen, namely Prof. Dr. Ingo H. Warnke and two of his doctoral students, Christian Bär as well as Hagen Steinhauer, who is also a member of the Research Group on Soft Authoritarianism, which is directed by Shalini Randeria, who holds the Excellence Chair at the University of Bremen.


Entering into Conversation about the Sound of Democracy // Interviews on How Democracy Sounds

What does democracy sound like today? How is its sound changing and what do we expect to hear when we listen? These are easy questions to ask. And if we truly care about how democracy sounds, then we should ask even a broader question: How does which democracy sound like today, for whom, and where? We assume that democracy has different sounds in distinctive places, for various people with diverse belongings and experiences. To stay in the picture of sound: Democracy in particular is not a repeatable performance to which we listen in similar ways, but a polyphonic and asynchronous happening of sounds that are constantly shifting. This seems to be just the opposite of “easy listening”.

How we hear and what we hear says something about the society and political order that surround us and of which we are part. But what’s more, it says just as much about ourselves and our positions in society. In this respect, listening is a performative act in which we participate in shaping what we hear and want to hear.

Sound of Democracy is a project that aims to stimulate political discussion about sound. Alongside a podcast and this blog, we also want to engage in conversations that we plan as interviews and conduct as accompanying research. Sound of Democracy is a metaphor that is intended to stimulate a dialogue about contemporary democracies. If we were to say what democracy means to us today, we might not really know how to answer, given the complexity of the subject and the question. A metaphor, however, is inviting and allows us to start a talk with each other without jumping to hasty conclusions. That is what we think. To us, the metaphor of sound is a bridge in conversations about democracy today.

In Sound of Democracy we will be conducting a small pilot study and some interviews about how democracy sounds in Ukraine, Poland, Sweden, Germany, France, and Italy.

We will give you insights into different soundscapes of democracy. They will be neither representative nor intersubjective. They will document what people hear and report when they start thinking about the Sound of Democracy. We invite you to follow where our plans take us, here in our blog. (IHW, HS, CB)

 

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