Title of the Talk: Sound Archiving and the Heritage of War
When? 4 May 2017 (17:00-18:30)
Where? The Barn at St John’s College (Kendrew Quad)
Speaker: Carolyn Birdsall (University of Amsterdam)
Abstract: In recent years there have been renewed calls – for historians and cultural researchers alike – to pay attention to the archive “as subject” rather than only “as source” (Stoler 2009). With this challenge in mind, this presentation will examine the creation of sound archives in European radio broadcasting from 1930 onwards. I will take a critical look at the rapid expansion of sound archiving – both in scale and prestige – during National Socialism in Germany (1933-1945). On the one hand, regime officials now recognised radio as a potential object of scholarly knowledge, resulting in support for a new academic discipline of radio studies (Rundfunkwissenschaft). On the other hand, the perceived value of radio recordings meant that sound collections were taken from across German-occupied Europe during World War II, and subsequently, in 1945, Nazi-era recordings were confiscated by Allied Forces, some of which are still held in the British Library today. The presentation raises questions about how we might frame such sound collections today: not only as the product of specific archival processes, but also their status as forms of conflict heritage in the present. It also reflects on how to study sound archival politics and the heritage of war.
Speaker Biography: Carolyn Birdsall is Assistant Professor of Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam. Her monograph Nazi Soundscapes: Sound, Technology and Urban Space in Germany, 1933-1945 appeared in 2012 and received the ASCA Book Award 2013. Birdsall is also co-editor of Sonic Mediations: Body, Sound, Technology (2008), Inside Knowledge: (Un)doing Ways of Knowing in the Humanities (2009), “Rethinking Theories of Television Sound” (2012), and a special issue on sound archiving in the humanities and social sciences (forthcoming 2017). Her new book examines the early history of radio archiving and related concepts of “documentary sound” in interwar Europe.
Event hosted as part of the Seminar in Ethnomusicology and Sound Studies Series, based at St John’s College, University of Oxford.