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Aural Ethnography and the Notion of Membership: An Exploration of Listening Culture in Havana

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Havana has a distinct aural culture. Its soundscapes are dynamic, and are spaces createdwith intention and purpose through the act of soundmaking. Locals actively engage theirsurroundings, and they demonstrate a willingness to contribute to the composition of theacoustic environment. The result is a soundscape that is rich in communicative potential,offering the individual a sense of being present within a familiar community – one thathas intimate ties to the physical terrain on which it is situated. But what is it exactly thatcreates the conditions for such a dynamic aural experience? And what is it about theHavana soundscape that sets it apart from the sounds of any other urban environment?Many of the sonic impressions that are used to inform this analysis are living artifacts of my own memory,and have not been derived from any recent ethnographic fieldwork. In this sense, thispaper is an instance of placing the cart before the horse, and is in some ways more of aproject proposal than it is a finalized collection of thoughts. With this in mind, I will domy best to convey with the utmost clarity and brevity what it is I hope to accomplishduring my tenure as a doctoral student, and why aural ethnography, in particular as itpertains to culture in Havana, is something that is worth pursuing.
This paper is part of the LAS Working Papers Series and will be presented on February 9, 2012, at SFU Vancouver.
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