UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Fugitivity, sound, and sanctuary : listening for stories beyond the bounds of citizenship Dumpys Woolever, Gabriele


How can audio stories help create a kind of transformative sanctuary and alternate public presence for those excluded from state belonging? How can this practice both embody and cultivate a politics of resonance that disrupts dominant narratives of the migrant other, while avoiding the indulgences of liberal white empathy? These are the questions at the heart of this research project. The research emerged from a collaborative project between the Migrant Workers Center (MWC) in Vancouver, BC, Dr. Geraldine Pratt, Dr. Vanessa Banta, and the author. We interviewed temporary foreign workers about their experiences during COVID-19. While the pandemic impacted these people in expected ways, our interviews revealed the extra vulnerabilities to which they were subject specifically as noncitizens, due to certain immigration policies that severely restrict their employment options and leave them open to exploitation. This was the political context of the research. However, the analysis of this thesis concerns the personal stories within this context; specifically, personal stories as sonic encounters and as narratives cultivated with politically marginalized people by empathetic white researchers in positions of relative power. Sound mingles with the Black radical tradition through the concept of fugitivity, which provides an essential current through and for these stories: the lives that flourish beyond the dominant political and epistemic forms that exclude them may be sounded out otherwise. Critical feminist concepts of listening and voice, and the proper figure of the human inhere in these concerns, along with the vibrant materialism of soundwaves in their literal, figurative, and political capacities. For a ‘sonic sensibility’ that has transformative capacities, the conditions for listening must be tended, along with critical practices of listening and accompaniment that displace the ‘structuring dominance of white life.’ Through the multivalent intimacy of sonic methods, personal stories may sound out places of transformative sanctuary. The suite of audio stories that comprise this project’s data, analysis, and outcomes are one way of attempting to embody this possibility.

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