Listening to Racism in the United States – or Why Sound Matters


13:00 – 14:30  Guest lecture by Jennifer Lynn Stoever, State University of New York
                          at Binghamton

We talk too often about race and racism as if they are solely visual concepts. Jennifer Stoever’s lecture will unsettle the assumed relationship between race and looking by introducing the concept of the sonic color line and exploring the often undetected ways in which sound and listening have also functioned to produce and enforce racial hierarchies throughout U.S. history and in our present moment. Stoever will also discuss how the sonic color line has shaped sound media such as the radio, and how sound media, in turn, have disciplined us to hear race.  With examples ranging from nineteenth century American pop opera stars to cold war radio to #blacklivesmatter, this lecture explores how sound and listening not only register the racial politics of our world, but actively produce them.  Stoever argues that sound matters in our everyday lives and that we can work to shift our historically and culturally conditioned listening practices toward a more equitable world.

15:00 – 16:30  Seminar with Jennifer Stoever

Participation is free of charge, but please register in advance by email to Lotta Vuorio.


Jennifer Lynn Stoever is Associate Professor at SUNY Binghamton, where she teaches courses on African American literature, sound studies, and race and gender representation in popular music. Stoever received her PhD in American Studies and Ethnicity from USC. Her dissertation, “The Contours of the Sonic Color-Line: Slavery, Segregation, and the Cultural Politics of Listening” was a 2007 finalist for the American Studies Association Dissertation Prize. She serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Popular Music Studies, Sound Studies, and Social Text. She has published in Social Text, Social Identities, Sound Effects, American Quarterly and Radical History Review among others.

Stoever is project coordinator for the Binghamton Historical Soundwalk Project, a multi-year archival, civically-engaged art project designed to challenge how Binghamton students and year-round residents hear their town, themselves, and each other. She is also Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief for Sounding Out!: The Sound Studies Blog and her book The Sonic Color Line: Race and the Cultural Politics of Listening was published by New York University Press in 2016.

Further information

Book website: The Sonic Color Line

Blog website: Sounding Out!