CfP: Tracing the Agency of Sound

Nikita Hock's picture
Call for Papers
October 8, 2018
Subject Fields: 
Contemporary History, Anthropology, European History / Studies, Jewish History / Studies, Research and Methodology


In historical research, sound has been increasingly recognized as an important aspect of the human expe­rience, the analysis of which allows insights into structures of sensation, emotion, knowledge and power. Nevertheless, sound in such investigations often appears as a mere layer of information.

This two-day workshop aims to depart from understanding sound as a passive “background” or neu­tral “medium”. We want to shift our attention to sound as influence, agent, and/or actor: Sound evokes emotions (tone and inflection of voice, socio- and dialect, laughing and weeping), it shapes thinking (con­figuring metaphors and patterns of thought), it impacts bodies and contributes to their movement (via shouts/orders, dancing, sounds of war), and takes part in shaping language (though possibilities and limits of its representation in speech and text).

Together, we want to reflect on methods that allow us to pass beyond “how it sounded” to the ques­tion “what was sound capable of doing?” How do we approach the agency of sound? And what are the conditions for sound to “act”? By focusing on agency, we aim to detect traces of sound in other spheres of human life, which themselves may not necessarily be filled with sound. Thus, we look for ways to extend the decodability of sound.

The workshop is organized in two parts. The first part is devoted to understanding the various ways sound can be thought of as having agency in its own right. In the second part, we will examine approaches and methods for reconstructing this agency in the analysis of historical events and constellations. This will in­clude questions of the mediation of this agency in sources and the challenges for interpretation raised by it.

We welcome contributions from different fields and disciplines (anthropology, psychology and neuroscience, history of emotions), as long as they are applicable for historical research.


The main focus of the workshop will be the discussion of concepts and aspects related to sound agency and historical sources, as outlined above. For this end, we invite you to pre-circulate papers (10 pages) until Sunday, January 06, 2018, which we ask everybody to have read by the time we meet. Everybody will then have 10 minutes to summarize their paper. The presentation will serve as a basis for the subsequent discussion.

Additionally, the workshop will feature several Interdisciplinary Sessions. These panel discussions will each focus on one object, aspect or practice which will be approached by attendees from their different disci­plinary angles.

The workshop will also include a BarCamp format. This open time slot of one hour can be filled by the par­ticipants and thus aims to accommodate thematic needs that may occur during the workshop. The slot can be used to deepen a topic broached in the workshop, to discuss a particular aspect insufficiently raised, or to present a short additional input from one’s particular discipline or project. For this, the work­shop participants will split into working groups based on their interest.

The workshop will be conducted in English.


08 October 2018 (Monday): Deadline for proposal
06 January 2018 (Sunday): Deadline for pre-circulated papers
08-09 February 2019 (Friday-Saturday): Workshop


Historisches Institut der Universität Bern
Länggassstrasse 49
CH-3012 Bern


Janina Wurbs,
Nikita Hock,
Tel: +41 (0)31 631-3633

Contact Info: 

Nikita Hock

Historisches Institut der Universität Bern
Länggassstrasse 49
CH-3012 Bern