The Sound System of the State: Sonic Strategies for Political Critique at the Borders of Palestine-Israel

Tlalim, Tom. 2017. The Sound System of the State: Sonic Strategies for Political Critique at the Borders of Palestine-Israel. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis examines political processes in Palestine-Israel by listening to their sound. While stagnating peace negotiations have been dominated by visual sensibility, it is argued that considering sonic sensibility could contribute to the re-examination of current border regimes. Sound and listening are examined as both the objects of study and the means of investigation, from their deployment by states for suppression and war to their use in power diffusion, resistance and critique. The central question is how the aural sense is deployed in both the assertion and critique of political power in Palestine-Israel – that is, what are the strategies, techniques, tools and approaches used, and how do they operate in claims for power, and in the undermining of such claims?

The dynamics of sound inform the methodology of this practice-based thesis, which consists of a written text and a series of artworks produced during the research. The written structure is organised around a set of case studies and artworks by the author and other artists. The combination of art practice, theory and case studies informs and influences the theory involved, while the theory influences the artwork produced. As a consequence, a grounded theory of aural politics emerges, where power and dominance may be both asserted and diffused sonically. The theoretical framework draws on postcolonial and conflict studies (Balibar, Weizman, Said, Mbembe, Mignolo) and on sound studies (Barthes, Attali, Chion, Schaffer, Sterne, Erlmann, LaBelle, Henriques, Goodman, among others).

Examining the problematics of Palestine-Israel through sound, the thesis makes a threefold contribution by 1) contributing to sound studies and the understanding of the sonic as a political medium, supplementing existing visual and discursive approaches to conflict studies; 2) applying a sonic analysis to conflict and power struggles in Palestine-Israel; and 3) making an artistic contribution through audio chapters and sound art produced during the study which draw on and impact debates on Palestine-Israel. This thesis therefore contributes to our understanding of the Palestine-Israel conflict, to the analysis of sound as a medium for social exchange and for the critique of power, and to the potential of sound to contribute to political processes.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Installation, Activism, Human Rights, Digital, Data, Sound, Studies, Film, Power, Art, Media, Borders, Palestine, Israel, Practice based research, Digital, Community, Ontology, Vibratiology, Conflict, War, Listening, Performativity, Territorialization

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


30 June 2017

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

05 Jul 2017 13:57

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 11:50


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