Sound and Listening Cultures in the Indian Subcontinent

Isabel Huacuja Alonso

This course will explore major themes in the growing field of Sound Studies with a focus on the rich history of sound and varied cultures of sound and listening in the Indian subcontinent. The main questions that we will address include: how have political, commercial, and cultural movements shaped what the diverse populations of South Asia listen to and how they listen?  How have different forms of media shaped/ informed listening experiences in South Asia? How do listening practices and cultures from the subcontinent differ from those in other regions?  In this class we will listen to the human voice, rumor/gossip, gramophone, loud speakers, radio, film, and mp3. We will discuss the role political speeches, film songs, and devotional songs in shaping South Asian politics and culture in the twentieth-century as the subcontinent transitioned from colonial rule to nation-states. Drawing on the interdisciplinary nature of Sound Studies, we will read works from across the disciplines—anthropology, ethnomusicology, Religious Studies, Media Studies, and history. Organized thematically, this course will focus on the twentieth century, but the readings will address earlier time periods.


This is an upper-level undergraduate and graduate (MA) seminar. Students are expected to have some background in South Asian studies/history or media/sounds studies. The class will meet once a week for discussion of readings. In addition to readings there will be a several required film screenings or listening activities.