Jennifer Hsieh: "Hearing Like a State: Office Work and Noise Control in a Post-Authoritarian Bureaucracy"


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Jennifer Hsieh, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan- Ann Arbor, investigates sensory practices in institutional and technological settings, with an emphasis on urban East Asia. Her most recent book project, tentatively titled "From Festival to Decibel: Making Noise in Urban Taiwan," analyzes the sociality of hearing and the production of noise as a material and discursive object in Taiwan's environmental noise-control system. Her work has appeared in American Ethnologist, Sound Studies Journal, and the edited volume "Testing Hearing: The Making of Modern Aurality" (2020, Oxford University Press).

Abstract: In "Seeing Like a State" (1998), James C. Scott envisions space on a scalar plane: large-scale social engineering is superimposed onto discreet, territorial boundaries in grid-like schemas that exercise political authority through visual exposure. Pushing against the Cartesian coordinates in Scott's account of modern statecraft, this talk investigates the reconfiguration of citizen relations with the state when modern state governance is considered within an episteme of hearing. Using a historical and ethnographic analysis of government officials' involvement in creating noise control policies in 1980s Taiwan and the present, this talk examines the strategies and obstacles of the state to measure and regulate that which can be heard but not seen in a post-authoritarian context. It details the emergence of new hearing publics that produce the development of new infrastructures for noise control regulation. Drawing on literature on the senses, the state, and critical disability studies, I examine the reorganization of perceptual authority within a noise control system and consider a politics of the senses as a twenty-first century mode of governance.



Asian Pacific Studies Institute (APSI); Cultural Anthropology

Jennifer Hsieh: "Hearing Like a State: Office Work and Noise Control in a Post-Authoritarian Bureaucracy"


Thompson, Elizabeth