Listening to and through Place

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 11:06
Oral Presentation
Christy GUTHRIE, University of Toronto, Canada
This paper highlights the conceptual and political importance of place and land for participatory cultural production methodology with anti-racist and decolonial aims. Drawing from a research project with arts educators in Toronto, Canada, I outline the collaborative production and analysis of site-specific sound recordings (soundscapes) with research participants. Using a critical place inquiry framework (Tuck & McKenzie, 2015), I position soundscape as a methodological intervention against settler colonial understandings of place that naturalize white settlement, erase Indigenous presence, and render Blackness as out-of-place. A critical conceptualization of place forwards its role in meaning-making and subject formation. As Anishinaabe artist Rebecca Belmore reminds us with her 2017 installation series “Wave Sound,” listening to the land is a way to invoke reflection on social and political relationships and relationships to non-human forms of life (Nixon, 2017). Within this relational understanding of place and land, I frame the cultural production process as a focused opportunity to engage with researchers’ and participants’ positions within ongoing projects of imperialism and settler colonialism. Noting that outsized claims of inclusion and improvement often circulate within creative interventions—both in arts-based civic development projects and arts-based social research—I also consider the limitations and complications of this critical place soundscapes approach. This paper responds to the Congress theme by asking how social researchers can reject colonial framings and methodologies, and instead seek to centre Indigenous and decolonial conceptualizations of land and relationality.