Sensational listening: Purposeful engagement with voices, silences, and bodies

Type: Virtual Paper
Sponsor Groups: Feminist Geographies Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM (PST)
Room: Virtual 15
Organizers: Emily Billo, Kelsey Hanrahan
Chairs: Emily Billo


Feminist scholars have considered listening as a strategy for critically approaching knowledge production (Bennett et al. 2015; DeVault 1990; Farinati and Firth 2017; Hyams 2004; McDowell 1997; Nairn 1997; Ratnam 2019), demonstrating how relations of power are contingent and multi-faceted, refusing to adhere to a simple binary between researcher and researched, or between voice and silence. For example, researchers working within black feminisms, postcolonial studies, and other critical traditions resist the reproduction of these power dynamics as they confront a tension between a desire to give voice to vulnerable populations and interlocuters’ right to shape their engagement. This could include a refusal to engage, a slow, careful approach to engagement, and presence of silences within relationships (Coddington 2017; Pascoe, et al. 2020; Reese 2019; Rowe and Malhotra 2013; Williams and Drew 2019). What these approaches illustrate is the potential to refuse the self-serving and institutionally-oriented reproduction of academic labour. Building on this scholarship, we turn to Sara Ahmed (2017) who reminds us of the ways in which feminist practice emerges out of and through our bodies’ engagements. Embracing her assertion that feminism is sensational, we consider how practices of listening specifically can situate our bodies as a source of knowledge and contribute to shifting the construction of academic relationships.

In this session, we engage with listening to ask questions such as, How can listening create space for more careful consideration of the agency embodied by interlocutors? How can listening contribute to creating spaces of social reproduction that support the researcher and/or interlocutors? How can listening work to disrupt institutional practices towards helping us to re-engage and re-invigorate our academic labour?

Literature cited:
Ahmed, Sara. 2017. Living a Feminist Life. Durham: Duke University Press.
Bennett, Katy, A. Cochrane, G. Mohan, & S. Neal. 2015. Listening. Emotion, Space and Society 17, 7-14.
Coddington, Kate. 2017. Voice under scrutiny: feminist methods, anticolonial responses, and new methodological tools. Professional Geographer 69(2), 314-320.
DeVault, Marjorie. 1990. Talking and listening from women’s standpoint: Feminist strategies for interviewing and analysis. Social Problems 37(1), 96-116.
Farinati, Lucia and Claudia Firth. 2017. The Force of Listening.
Hyams, Melissa. 2004. Hearing Girls’ Silences: Thoughts on the politics and practices of a feminist method of group discussion. Gender, Place & Culture 11(1), 105-119.
McDowell, Linda. 1997. Women/gender/feminisms: doing feminist geography. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 21(3), 381-400.
Nairn, Karen. 1997. Hearing from quiet students: the politics of silence and voice in geography classrooms. In JP Jones III, Heidi Nast and Susan M Roberts (eds), Thresholds in Feminist Geography: Difference, Methodology, Representation, pp. 93-115. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield.
Pascoe, Sophie, Anna Sanders, Andrea Rawluk, Paul Satizábal and Tessa Toumbourou. 2020. Holding Space for Alternative Futures in Academia and Beyond. Antipode Online.
Ratnam, Charishma. 2019. Listening to difficult stories: Listening as a research methodology. Emotion, Space and Society, 31, 18-25.
Reese, Ashanté M. 2019. Refusal as Care. Anthropology News. Website, June 4. DOI: 10.1111/AN.1181
Rowe, Aimee Carrillo and Sheena Malhotra. 2013. Still the Silence: Feminist Reflections at the Edges of Sound. In Silence, Feminism, Power: Reflections at the Edges of Sound, pp.1-22. London: Palgrave-Macmillan.
Williams, Shoshannah and Georgina Drew. 2019. ‘Co-creating meeting spaces’: Feminist ethnographic fieldwork in Bangladesh. Gender, Place & Culture.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Sarah Klosterkamp*, University of Bonn, Embodied Listening in court-based settings – Methodological reflections and ethical challenges 15 8:00 AM
Presenter Kelsey Hanrahan*, Towson University, Emily Billo, Goucher College, Embodied listening as practice towards dis/comfort 15 8:15 AM
Presenter Kathryn Dennler*, York University, Listening beyond Immigration Status Categories: Research with People with Precarious Immigration Status in Toronto, Canada 15 8:30 AM
Presenter Beth Bee*, East Carolina University, Listening as method and praxis 15 8:45 AM
Presenter Emily Billo*, Goucher College, Kelsey Hanrahan, Towson University, Unsettling academic spaces: Disrupting speech-as-presence and creating space for listening 15 9:00 AM

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