Distraction Free Reading

Audio Ethnographies of Water from Latin America: Introduction

Inspired by Feld’s (2015) work on sound, in this collection of essays, we bring five ethnographers from Latin America to think about their research through the sounds of their respective field sites. The exercise we propose here borrows Feld’s concept of ‘acoustemology’ to help frame our approach towards the aural dimensions of a place:

Acoustemology conjoins ‘acoustics’ and ‘epistemology’ to theorize sound as a way of knowing. In doing so, it inquires into what is knowable and how it becomes known through sounding and listening. Acoustemology begins with acoustics to ask how the dynamism of sound’s physical energy indexes its social immediacy. It asks how the physicality of sound is so instantly and forcefully present to experience and experiencers, to interpreters and interpretations. (p. 12)

Sophie D’Anieri, Alejandra Osejo Varona, Fernando Lopez Vega and Sara Monzón Cáceres, and Carolina Iglesias Otero offer four audio ethnographies from their fieldwork sites in Colombia and Mexico. In listening to their work, we join them in a process of exploring the limits of what can be heard through sound. Knowing through the audible elements around us forces us to deal with a different kind of spatial intimacy with a place, one that is necessarily relational and affective. Water becomes the focus of all four pieces, but the vital liquid acquires different forms, movements, and forces as it moves across sites. In our sonic journey, we move from Guadalajara to the Magdalena River, and then from the port of Ciudad del Carmen to the Orinoco River. All four audio ethnographies offer a unique point of audition and an opportunity to build a new relationship with their sites.

Vivid blues and greens are cut through by blurry rays of light shimmering out from the center, giving the impression of looking down into a watery expanse.

Sinkhole water from fieldwork in Mexico. Photo by Pablo Aguilera Del Castillo.


Feld, S. (2015). Acoustemology. In Keywords in Sound (Eds. David Novak and Matt Sakakeeny). Duke University Press.

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