Tag Archives: democracy

The Poetics of our Civics: Binary Tracks in Talk about Democracy and Engagement in the US

Debra Spitulnik Vidali (Emory)

While many young adults in the United States would be hard pressed to provide a comprehensive definition of the word “democracy,” many engage the meanings of democracy indirectly, as they grapple with the meaning and relevance of voting. To vote or not, and to register to vote or not, are highly salient issues for many as first time voters, and as election campaigns increasingly target young voters. This paper examines the interactional alignments that occur in their conversations, around meanings of democracy and voting, particularly in relation to pervasive modes of binary or dualistic classifications of political stance and political engagement. I argue that political subjectivity is located in such interactional alignments and “stances of (dis)engagement” with the public sphere and publicly circulating discourse. Data stem from over 100 hours of recorded conversations and interviews among young adults (ages 18-25) in the Atlanta area.

‘Raising Voice’ in Kathmandu: Sound, Publics, and Political Subjectivity

Laura Kunreuther (Bard College)

In this paper, I explore practices associated with ‘raising voice’ (āwāj uthāune), a discourse that has become prominent in public media and popular speech in Nepal particularly since the democracy movements of 1990 and 2006. Āwāj uthāune clearly resonates with global discourses of the voice as a metonym of political agency, consciousness, and empowerment. But unlike the English term “voice,” āwāj also refers to material, “natural” or “non-human” noise and sounds that fall outside of discourse and sometimes defy intentional meaning. Many examples of ‘raising voice’ that I discuss here entail the broadcast of non-discursive sounds through various media – the FM radio, street protests, performance art. The discourse of āwāj and āwāj uthāune thus asks us to take seriously the connections between political metaphors of voice and the social politics of sound in understanding contemporary political subjectivity within Nepal and beyond its borders. What kinds of sounds do people associate with the notion of ‘raising voice’ and democracy – and what kinds of desires and subjects do these sounds animate? How might we rethink the global metaphor of voice by interrogating it through the concept of āwāj? By focusing on the materiality of the sounds of āwāj uthāune, I argue that sound plays a key role in the affective and embodied dimensions of political subjectivity. Moreover I suggest, sound itself must be recognized as having political dimensions.