Sonic Ethnography

Identity, heritage and creative research practice in Basilicata, southern Italy

I am happy to announce the upcoming publication of Sonic ethnography, a book by myself and by Nicola Scaldaferri that explores the role of sound-making and listening practices in the formation of local identities in the southern Italian region of Basilicata. With an approach that cuts across sensory anthropology, sound studies and ethnomusicology, the book demonstrates how in the acoustic domain tradition is made and disrupted, power struggles take place and acoustic communities are momentarily brought together in shared temporality and space. Based on research spanning thirty years, it provides an innovative take on soundful cultural performances such as tree rituals, carnivals, pilgrimages and more informal musical performances, with particular attention to the interactions between classic ethnographic scholarship from the past century and the local politics of heritage.

With a large number of colour photographs and more than an hour of sound recordings, Sonic ethnography uses a unique combination of media to investigate distinctive ways of knowing, beyond more traditional ethnographic forms of representation. Two methodological chapters, respectively on music-making as creative research practice and on photo-ethnography, make the book an essential contribution for those interested in the production of sounds and still images as relational and interactive approaches to fieldwork. The pioneering anthropologist of sound, Steven Feld, collaborated to some of the research and contributed to the book an afterword and a soundscape composition. While most of the photographs in the book are mine, it also features a photo series by Stefano Vaja.

Through its analysis and its format, Sonic ethnography makes a compelling argument for taking sound seriously as a crucial component of social life and as an ethnographic form of representation. It will be available in print, ebook and online (Open Access) though Manchester University Press. You can preorder, read the table of contents and find out more information on the publisher’s website.

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sonic ethnography cover