Academic journal article Cultural Studies Review

Editorial

Academic journal article Cultural Studies Review

Editorial

Article excerpt

In Individuals (1959) the English philosopher P.F. Strawson tries to imagine a world where material bodies are not the basic particulars. His example of such a world is one in which our experience was purely auditory, and he assumes that such a universe would give us no spatio-temporal grounding. What is not clear is how, in this no-space universe, I could distinguish between states of myself, on the one hand, and what is not myself or a state of myself on the other: it is not clear, that is to say, how the notion of a subject of perception of sound could develop that would be different from sound itself; how there could be a distinction between the subject's experiences and the idea of that which has those experiences.

The first section of this special issue of Cultural Studies Review is devoted to the concept of noise and the roles it plays in a range of very different contexts. As Strawson's example demonstrates, perhaps despite its intentions, sound (and that 'wild' variant of sound that we call noise) seems to be situated at the margins of our epistemology: we think of it as being less grounded and less grounding than the other material dimensions of the world. If sound disorients our sense of who we are, noise does so even more strongly. That sense of disorientation or disruption or interference, and particularly of the political force of noise, lies at the heart of many of the essays presented here: the relation between noise and civilisation or between music and the noises heard by travellers doing the Grand Tour, criminal noise and the legal status of silence, noise in political philosophy, mechanical noise, urban noise and the shaping of architectural space by noise, the soundscape of colonial settlement, and noise's affective force. We'll leave it to the section editors David Ellison and Bruce Buchan to describe the work done by each of the essays they have brought together; for the journal, we have found this a particularly important attempt to readjust the sensorium through which cultural studies usually imagines the material world and the cultural politics that flows from it.

Marcus Breen's 'Provocation', providing the transition to the essays that follow, meets the devil in cultural studies in the form of an anachronistic Nazi forerunner to the discipline: a reminder, writes Breen:

that the devil itself is part of the formation of cultural studies and every articulation, contingency and relationship incorporates forces at work that must be explored, revealed, described, critiqued and resisted. …

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