Accepted Paper:

Sensory environments and sonic experiences: ethnography of blindness and sound in the Israeli public sphere  


Gili Hammer (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the sonic environments, experiences, and knowledge of blind people in Israel; sound-awareness-raising sites, and sound discourse in the imagining of the human subject.

Paper long abstract:

For the last seven years, "Dialogue in the Dark" -- an absolute darkness experience -- has been one of the most popular museum exhibits in Israel. Led by blind and visually impaired guides, the exhibition focuses on "non-visual awareness," offering visitors the opportunity to navigate, in total darkness, a park, a noisy city, and a boating excursion. My paper will address novel, unique environments such as Dialogue in the Dark which evoke sound and sonic awareness among the general public, as well as the everyday sonic experiences of blind people.

Following scholars within anthropology of the senses, this paper offers a "multi-sensory" approach, initiating an ethnographic encounter with sonic experiences and sound environments rarely documented in the past, shifting the focus from the eye and the gaze to alternative sensory realities and possibilities, such as the use of sound in the imagining of the human subject.

Based on three years of anthropological fieldwork with blind people in Israel, the paper includes a threefold exploration of sound environments and acoustic knowledge: (a) The everyday auditory experiences of blind people, and specifically auditory awareness within blind women's appearance management; (b) Sonic discourse within cultural sites which bring together sighted, blind, and visually impaired people and evoke acoustic awareness, such as a radio-drama class, a cycling club pairing blind and sighted tandem bicyclists, a restaurant in the dark, and more; and (c) Sonic interactions that took place between the researcher and participants in the field.

Panel W088
Sound environments: forms, perception, and meanings