Sound, affect, politics

Stirling, C. (2018) Sound, affect, politics. In: The Routledge Companion to Sound Studies. Routledge Media and Cultural Studies Companions . Routledge, Abingdon, pp. 54-67. ISBN 9781138854253 (hardback) 9780367659745 (paperback) 9781315722191 (e-book)


The “turn to affect” in the humanities and social sciences has sparked an epistemological upheaval over the last decade. In this chapter I ask: how have sound and music been brought into articulation with affect theories? Sound’s ability to alter our bodily states—to invade us physically in ways that first become perceptible as atmosphere, vibe, or sensation—is hard to ignore. As Goodman puts it, sound has a “seductive power to caress the skin, to immerse, to soothe, beckon and heal, to modulate brain waves and massage the release of certain hormones” (Goodman, 2010: 10). Yet sound can also induce “diminished intellectual capacity, accelerated respiration and heartbeat, hypertension [and] neurosis” (ibid). In this overview, I engage theoretically and ethnographically with the implications of a turn to affect in sound and music studies. I ask, paraphrasing Mazzarella (2009), what sonic/musical affect might be “good for”: what is the socio-political power of sonically incited affect, not only as a concept but as a tangible, lived experience? And how might one go about researching it empirically?

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item