Sound Politics: Affective Governance and the State

Have you ever felt drawn to someone and wondered why? Or compelled to tears when you smelled an old familiar scent? Or decided, knowing very little about the debate or the actors involved, where you stood and whom you sided with? We make these kinds of choices daily, with varying degrees of consciousness and intentionality, and when we make them, we tend to think we are in control of the choice. And of course, we are—partly. Our sensory perceptions are first-order inputs we use to navigate the world, but our preferences, and the knowledge we rely on to make sense of these perceptions, are deeply social, contingent, and historically constructed. Likewise, physical environments we pass through daily, no matter how banal, are hardly neutral. Rather, they are designed according to a raucous and ever-changing roster of power relations—some of which call out for attention, explicitly targeting the sensory body, while others derive their power specifically from their ability to pass unnoticed. These observations might seem commonplace in the realm of advertising, personal relationships, or even the flattened space of social media, yet they hold true equally in the realm of politics and governance. Indeed, the fact that senses and their affective resonances are infrequently thought of as explicitly political sets them apart as uniquely potent, microfoundational forces shaping an array of political experiences. Drawing on empirical, inductive case studies in Palestine, Israel, Algeria, France, and Morocco, this book shows how seemingly small-scale, everyday encounters with the sonic and material world constitute powerful forces in the shaping of political outcomes across the globe.