Sound Unseen: Auscultating Gendered Violence in Mexican Fiction

  • Tamara Mitchell, French, Italian and Hispanic Studies
    Coach House, Green College, UBC and livestreamed

    Thursday, February 29, 5-6:30pm with reception to follow
    in the series
    Sound Silence Power
  • Thinking with Nietzsche, Peter Szendy asserts that auscultation—or listening to the sound of spacing—allows the philosopher “to make quiet things—mute things—‘speak out’” (133). The present study attunes to spatialized sonority in the Mexican author Guadalupe Nettel’s Después del invierno (After the Winter 2014) and La hija única (Still Born 2020) as a means of sensing the invisible but pervasive domestic violence experienced by nearly a third of women globally. Meditating on this reality, the present study reads Nettel’s fiction as a reflection on our collective inability to perceive gendered violence due to patriarchal social norms and structural misogyny. Intimate partner abuse often occurs behind closed doors and is therefore easily disregarded. In line with this out-of-sight-out-of-mind logic, Tamara Mitchell shows how Nettel’s sonic novels turn to the sense of hearing to bear witness to the violence suffered by women in Mexico and elsewhere. In dialogue with Sound Studies scholars Michel Chion, Kaja Silverman and Szendy, Tamara illustrates how the works’ narrative soundscapes become a means of indexing and critiquing the invisible misogyny of the novels’ pages, which in turn index the structural misogyny that gives invisible form to our common modes of perception. In particular, she listens for acousmatic sound (sound out of view of the protagonist-listener) and auscultation (the sounds of spacing) to suss out how violence may be out of sight, but it is still perceptible to those willing to listen for it.

    This event is co-hosted with the Sound and the Humanities Research Cluster, UBC.

    Tamara Mitchell is Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies at UBC and works at the intersection of politics and aesthetics in contemporary Latin American narrative fiction. Her current research interests are deeply attuned to the role of sound in narrative fiction, and she is working on a SSHRC-funded monograph entitled Sounds of the Capitalocene: Violence and Aurality in the Contemporary Mexican Novel. That project posits that literary aurality is employed in recent fiction as a means of responding to and critiquing economic and ecological crises.

    She is founding Director of the Sound and the Humanities Research Cluster, co-convener of the Latin American Sound Studies Working Group (2020-present), and co-editor of a special issue on “Latin American Literary Aurality” Revista de Estudios Hispánicos (October 2023).




    Attending to sound opens up myriad potentialities. While historically silence has been wielded as an instrument of oppression, and listening practices have served to categorize acoustic expressions into hierarchical binaries—sound/noise, melody/racket, speech/babel, human voice/animal howl—recent scholars, practitioners and ordinary people have become attuned to the ways in which sound and listening may prove a potent source of empowerment, resistance and care. This series attends to the decolonizing and disruptive potential of sound in its many manifestations. Through a speaker series with some of the most dynamic thinkers in humanistic sound studies, as well as reading groups and a capstone symposium, participants are invited to note the entanglement of sound, silence and power in our everyday lives, politics and dwelling.

    Join us for invited speakers exploring the potentialities of sound from a diversity of disciplinary perspectives, including Black Studies, Indigenous Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, More-than-Human Geographies, Transpacific Studies, Decolonial Studies and Disability Studies. 

    Series Conveners: Tamara Mitchell, French, Hispanic and Italian Studies; and Rosanne Sia, Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice


  • Unless otherwise noted, all of our lectures are free to attend and do not require registration.

February 29th, 2024 from  5:00 PM to  6:30 PM
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