Colonial ways of listening: an environmental kin study of fish recordings, Annual Topic

Recorded lecture with live Zoom Q&A

Reception in Williams 623


Abstract colorful painting

Artwork: Zoe Todd

Colonial ways of listening: an environmental kin study of fish recordings

Western social science and humanities scholars position listening as a way to build more responsive, ethical and reciprocal relations to people and environments. But to think about listening as a possibly liberatory practice, we need to consider how Anglo-European modes of listening and interpreting the world through sound are shaped by “sonic colonialities”. These are encultured ways of apprehending and narrating environments that are derived from the Eurocentric fetish for pre-colonial natures, imagined as discrete, unmediated, and possessable.There has been an explosion in recent years of western scientific interest in recording the vocalizations and sounds that fish make. Applying AM Kanngieser’s concept of “sonic colonialities” (2023), informed by decolonial scholarship, and drawing on our collaborative methodology of “environmental kin studies”, we examine the implications for scientists to be eavesdropping on fish at this inflection point in global history and late capitalist climate breakdown.

Dr. Zoe Todd (she/they) (Red River Métis) is a practice-led artist-researcher who studies the relationships between Indigenous sovereignty and freshwater fish futures in Canada. Dr. Todd combines methods from Critical Indigenous Studies, history, geography, art, oral history, ethnography, and other disciplines/approaches to intervene collaboratively with colleagues in catastrophic fish declines in their home province. They are a co-founder of the Institute for Freshwater Fish Futures, which is a collaborative Indigenous-led initiative that is ‘restor(y)ing fish futures, together’ across three continents. They are also a co-founder of the Indigenous Environmental Knowledge Institute (IEKI) at Carleton University. They were a 2018 Yale Presidential Visiting Fellow, and in 2020 they were elected to the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars. Dr. Todd is an Associate Professor in the Department of Indigenous Studies at Simon Fraser University. 

AM Kanngieser is a geographer and sound artist. They are a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow in GeoHumanities at Royal Holloway, University of London. Their current projects amplify movements for self-determination in relation to ongoing colonisation through resource extraction, environmental racism and ecological disaster in Oceania. They are the author of Experimental Politics and the Making of Worlds (2013), Between Sound and Silence: Listening toward Environmental Relations (forthcoming). Their audio work has been commissioned by Documenta 14 Radio, BBC Radio, ABC Radio National, The Natural History Museum London, and Deutschland Radio, amongst many others.

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This is the fourth in a four part series exploring our annual topic Listening for the Anthropos-not-seen, directed by Dr. Kristina Lyons.