Sonic Turn in the Study of South Asia
Shubhra Ray
INDIAN SOUND CULTURES, INDIAN SOUND CITIZENSHIP by Edited by Laura Brueck, Jacob Smith and Neil Verma Primus Books, New Delhi, 2022, 362 pp., INR 1495.00
July 2024, volume 48, No 7

At the very outset of Indian Sound Cultures, Indian Sound Citizenship, Laura Brueck, Jacob Smith and Neil Verma, drawing on Dipesh Chakrabarty’s arguments for ‘provincializing Europe’, posit that the raison d’être of the anthology is two-fold: one, the essays in the volume draw attention to the centrality of sound in the context of South Asian studies in all its interdisciplinarity and diversity, which has largely been concerned with ‘textual and visual foci’ (p. 1), and two, the necessity of shifting the margins of the discipline of sound studies itself—with its inherent biases—by understanding sounds in their local contexts. In an aptly titled introduction— ‘Out of the West, Out of the Text’, the editors argue that the ‘sonic turn’ (p. 14) in South Asian studies has long been overdue, and is indispensable for the viability of both these disciplines, in order to draw out their fault lines and suggest possibilities of renewal and rejuvenation, in contradistinction to the risk of ossification, that could be a likely outcome, if western biases in sound studies continue unchallenged.

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