2- “Doing Time”: Prison, War and Strategies of Sound - Kip Pegley, Queen’s University

1:30 PM, Saturday 25 May 2019 (2 hours)
Coffee break   03:30 PM to 04:00 PM (30 minutes)

There are a surprising number of parallels between the lives of inmates and military combatants: these populations are segregated from society, often struggle with challenging temporalities (i.e., extended periods of unstructured time, including in segregation), have limited physical space and insufficient boundaries, and frequently suffer from compromised mental health both during and after their release. Sound is an important modality to consider within these two contexts because unlike vision or smell, we cannot willingly “close” ourselves off from external vibrations; in other words, we have no choice but to internalize sound, rendering it what Jean-Luc Nancy calls a full and multi-body experience (2007). Because many individuals from both groups repeatedly are exposed to environmental sounds associated with traumatic events—guards’ footsteps, the jingling of keys, close-range gun fire or even a repeated song—they suffer disproportionately from sound-related PTSD. But as invasive and oppressive as sound may be within these hostile environments, it is also one of the few expressive tools available to these disempowered populations. Since 2012 I have interviewed dozens of Canadian military veterans on their relationship to sound “in theatre” ranging from conflicts in Bosnia (1992-1995) to the War in Afghanistan. In this paper I bring these interviews in conversation with archived materials by and about former inmates to understand the sonic similarities between combat theatres and prisons -- two “total institutions” -- and explore sound (including music) as a powerful mode of control and oppression -- and of resistance and healing.
Queen's University
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