Gentrification as Interruption: Listening to the Everyday Disruption of Black Life

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Like cities around the globe, Washington, DC has been gentrifying for decades. As a result, the city’s overall population has soared while the Black population has decreased from its peak Chocolate City status in the 1970s. These processes of gentrification are often studied longitudinally, where we see neighborhoods shift in racial demographics, socioeconomic status, and cultural formation over a given period of time. In this talk, I use a digital sound studies approach to recast gentrification as interruption, as jagged disruptions to everyday Black life in DC. These ruptures are a crucial part of the city’s gentrification story, and yet are often overlooked in favor of a more reductive narrative of displacement. Using music and soundscape analysis, I consider gentrification as the sonic disruption of Black life: through sirens, the displacement of music scenes, and the criminalization of sound. These stories, drawn from DC’s rapidly gentrifying Shaw neighborhood, are intended to broaden conversations about gentrification and help us to listen against everyday sonic harms.
Part of the Institute for Digital Arts & Humanities' Ambient Algorhythms in the Arts and Humanities speaker series.
Gentrification; Sound recordings; Digital humanities
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