Listening to Colonial History. Echoes of Coercive Knowledge Production in Historical Sound Recordings from Southern Africa

  • Language: English
  • ISBN 978-3-906927-39-8
  • eISBN 978-3-906927-40-4
Anette Hoffmann

Listening to Colonial History. Echoes of Coercive Knowledge Production in Historical Sound Recordings from Southern Africa

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European archives hold historical voice recordings that were produced by linguists, ethnologists and musicologists during colonial rule in African countries. While these recordings reverberate with the polyphonic echoes of colonial knowledge production, to date, acoustic collections have rarely been consulted as sources of colonial history. In this book Anette Hoffman engages with a Southern African audio-visual collection, which is located in five different institutions across Vienna, Austria.

Several recordings collected by the anthropologist Rudolf Pöch in August 1908 have been retranslated for this book. These translations provide new insights into Pöch’s collecting expedition to the Kalahari. Pöch’s narrative of his heroic journey is called into question by the Naro speakers’ comments, which address colonial violence and criticise the research practices of the anthropologist. By attending to the spoken texts on the recordings and reconnecting them to photographs, ethnographic objects, archival documentation and Pöch’s travelogue, Hoffmann offers a different reading of this research trip into a war zone.

“Hoffmann’s work provides a detailed analysis of the significance of historical sound recordings for challenging the colonial archive. Whilst her analysis is presented from a historical archive studies perspective, her ideas deserve to be taken up by anthropologists who are engaged in historical ethnography and may even inspire any decolonial-minded researcher in anthropology, and beyond.”

Anthropology Southern Africa

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