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Echo Elsewhere: Settler Colonialism and the Materialization of Sound

  • Author / Creator
    Cowley, Kendra
  • On July 24th 2020, members of Beaver Hills Warriors, Black Lives Matter YEG, Treaty Six Outreach, community Elders, and the Crazy Indian Brotherhood set up camp on a piece of land near downtown Edmonton in protest of police violence targeting unhoused people in the city. For the next four months the site would be known as the Pekiwewin Prayer and Relief Camp. Pekiwewin existed at the convergence and opening of the ruptures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the reckoning of Canadian diplomatic reconciliation, decolonizing demands for land back, and the mass uprising against white supremacist police violence in response to the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police on May 25th, 2020. Pekiwewin lasted for four months as a police-free community with resident Elders and a Sacred Fire, a kitchen serving two meals a day, a medic and harm reduction tent, community security, donations, and a library. At its peak, 400 people lived at Pekiwewin. The final residents of Pekiwewin were forcibly removed by police officers on November 12, 2020. In this thesis, I reflect on how my time as a medic at Pekiwewin has shaped my understanding of the relationship between sound, structures of perception, the material-semiotic production of knowledge, and settler-colonialism. What became clear to me — in the collision between my experience of sound at Pekiwewin, and my attempts to record sound elsewhere for a previously proposed research creation project — was the profound inability to separate the two. Not only did these two seemingly different projects, mutual aid and a creative sound recording practice, become important to think together, the literal sounds of each ‘distinct’ project were heard alongside each other, and in their co-constitutional materialization. In Echo Elsewhere, I will argue that sound is a material-semiotic force-relation always in the process of becoming. I look to Donna Haraway and Karen Barad to think through the materialization of sound as a boundary-making practice that delineates, or cuts, what is included, or considered to matter, in the construction of sound. This thesis takes seriously that sound must be located within the material, social, and political conditions of its emergence. In the first chapter I will locate myself and my research within the tradition of deep listening as practiced, theorized, and taught by the late Pauline Oliveros. I will read Oliveros alongside Dylan Robinson and his concept of Hungry listening – listening through settler-colonialism – to think through an ethico-political practice of listening that is attuned to the social resonances of our time. In the next two chapters, I will detail how I have come to understand and theorize sound and assert three primary claims that resonated throughout this project: 1) sound is always situated and must be understood as co-generative, shaping and shaped by, the conditions of its emergence; 2) sound is porous and articulates the interconnectivity of our material and social relations; 3) sound is politically relevant to a critical analysis of settler colonial social relations in the so-called state of Canada. Finally, I will propose in the form of keywords, four different sonic concepts that might help us think through sound and its relationship to settler-colonial world-making. In the conclusion, I will, in concert with Dylan Robinson, propose refusal as a useful orientation from which to ground more ethical sonic-research, including the proposal that particular technologies of remix might allow us to engage, in Karen Recollect’s term, the slipstream of sound, without relying on extractive recording practices.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2021
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Master of Arts/Master of Library and Information Studies
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/r3-b5fj-ev35
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.