Gatherings on the Politics of Listening conference (Anthea Garman, 5/12/18)

Listening is:

  • doing

  • response-ability

  • accountable

  • names a relationship

  • always relational

  • intersubjective – listening with/to/for

  • recognition

  • a hopeful practice

  • a micropolitics

  • experiential learning

  • situated

  • embodied

  • marked

  • placed

  • embedded

  • a politics of solidarity

  • a politics of activism

  • a politics of decolonisation

  • really messy on the ground

  • a prefigurative politics, utopian and hopeful

  • material

  • refusal to accept dominant ways of understanding

Listening must move away from individualistic, interpersonal, active listening to different types of relationality and action.

Listening centres indigenous sovereignty and challenges epistemic violence. Listening shows up multiple oppressions and where they intersect.

We cannot be in control of the conditions of our own audibility. Hearing too much is a condition of listening. Shallow listening allows us to listen wide rather than deep.

Listening has an accent.

Listening has an architecture.

Listening has an intention.

Listening takes on the power of the semantic over the vocal.

Listening foregrounds the materiality of the voice, voice is the cypher of the unique knower.

Listening can pivot a learner to a knower.

Listening can hear dissonance and discord.

Listening is more than the monologic of telling story/testimony which can be the domestication of listening. Listening is more than a service to voice or a path to speaking. Control of the narrative makes certain stories inaudible and intelligible.

Listening takes on the compulsion to narrative and claim attention.

The unheard are the socially abject. There are hierarchies of audibility and knowability. Listening centres the socially abject as knowers and agents.

Listening can happen in spaces of articulacy and inarticulacy. Silence is generative but needs labour.

Listening has care at the centre.

Listening needs time.

Listening needs continuity.

To listen is to be affected.

Listening opens up the potency of being with otherness.

Listening has consequences.

Listening can be used:

  • to create sentimental stories with a predictable narrative

  • to recentre whiteness

  • to recentre Christianity

  • to recentre privilege

  • as surveillance

  • as a governmentality

  • to foster neoliberal subjectivity

  • to centre the listener as a saviour

Listening should resist general theory, give up mastery, be rooted in humility, courage and hope.

Listening theory has a high normative threshold.

What comes before listening? Gather yourself first and know who you are before you step into the place of listening. Be together first before declaring yourself.


The how of listening matters as much if not more. Listen to learn our place.

The questions that should be asked:

  • Who invites?

  • Who hosts?

  • Who intervenes?

  • Who curates?

  • Who welcomes?