Sanctuary sound & fugitivity: Negotiating stories and publics beyond citizenship

Authors: Gabriele Dumpys Woolever*, University of British Columbia
Topics: Feminist Geographies, Media and Communication
Keywords: sound, sanctuary, fugitivity, agency, storytelling
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 32
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Fugitivity bears a relation to both sound and sanctuary. It is a relation that expresses itself materially in the flight of soundwaves and of captive bodies. It is also figurative and, of course, political. Haro & Coles (2019) call up sanctuary as the “generative twin” of fugitivity, linking it with practices of disruptive hospitality and strategic play around publicness itself. If sanctuary is, among other things, the site and process of making space for fugitive presence, how might this be enacted through sound with those most often associated with sanctuary: precarious non-citizens? This paper works from the midst of a collaborative participatory research project in British Columbia, recording audio stories with non-citizens, which will eventually be shared publicly. Informed by Labelle’s (2018) concept of sonic agency, it asks how audio storytelling can create a kind of sanctuary and public presence for people on the margins of state-articulated belonging. This feminist sound methodology listens for personal narratives that tangle scripted identities; it distills space for people situated within complex lives that exceed the category of citizenship status. They weep. They are bored. Their employers die and they lose their status, a tragic-comic nuisance. Yet sonic narrative is not the full scope of the inquiry. Affective auditory gestures that exceed the linguistic are also, in their fugitive way, crucial to possibilities of comprehension. Throughout this, I foreground negotiations of linguistic and relational-structural translation that are the conditions of this research. More broadly, they underpin an ethical circumspection regarding storytelling and “sanctuary” themselves.

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