In this talk I will present and interrogate one of the many articulations of racialized sonic violence incontemporary Brazil, more specifically the creation of what I call "listening anxieties" by the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro. I will show how the Police makes extensive use of sonic design practices to not only exercise direct violence against marginalized populations in the city, but also to hyper-amplify a sense of permanent threat in the so-called "pacified" favelas of Rio. More specifically, how the Military Police employ techniques of filtering certain sounds out of the soundscape in order to render their very absence as threatening, thus subtracting certain sounds of the auditory space in order to make certain listening bodies hyper-audible and hyper-visible.
Conducting this narrative is a Jukebox which sits at a bar in a neighborhood in the northern part of Rio. This jukebox dwells on the fringes of legality, illegality, and a third state of "imposed" illegality by the Police, which is articulated via the listening practices it affords. Through its very presence, its accessibility at all times, and more specifically through the type of music that can be "hacked into" and played in the machine – funk proibidão, a type of funk carioca that openly sings about the everyday violence of the favelas and the drug wars – this jukebox is a clear example of how sound marks territory both for the Police as well for the drug factions that control Rio’s underprivileged neighborhoods. The cultural and political function of this type of jukebox subverts and extends well beyond its intended design, articulating a non-verbal language within the social configuration of the neighborhood in question. In embracing the contingency of certain localized listening practices, and by standing as a marker for a power play between the Military Police and the factions, it becomes an ambiguous device for provisional forms of auditory governances that might be particular to that specific place, but can be nevertheless observed and enacted elsewhere. In other words, this jukebox is a designed installment of the Drug Wars in Rio, and a vector for Police violence.
In the talk I will be discussing from a decolonizing perspective this (very uneven) power play, and its immediate and long-term implications on the sonic configuration of Rio de Janeiro as a whole. With that I hope to trigger a discussion on the contingent sonic practices engendered by designed objects, as well as how design instrumentalizes these practices as a violent mechanism.
Dahlia Borsche is Research Associate in the Department of Musicology and Media Studies at Humboldt University Berlin, where her research interests focus on contemporary and transcultural music processes, thereby expanding traditional discipline boundaries to the fields of sound, urban and cultural studies.
Pedro Oliveira is a researcher and artist in sound studies, born in São Paulo 21 years after a Coup d'Etat in Brazil, and 31 before another one. He holds a PhD (currently Dr.des) in Design Research at the UdK Berlin; he is also one half of "A Parede" and one-eighth of the "Decolonising Design" group.
Matthias Haenisch is a research associate of the research group “MuBiTec – Music learning with mobile technologies” (University of Cologne, Berlin University of the Arts, University of Erfurt, University of Lübeck; promoted by the Federal Ministry of Education and Science), where his research concerns, among other things, questions of socialization, subjectification and aesthetic experience in postdigital communities.