Aural Contract: Investigations at the Threshold of Audibility

Abu Hamdan, Lawrence. 2018. Aural Contract: Investigations at the Threshold of Audibility. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

Text (Aural Contract: Investigations at the Threshold of Audibility)
VIS_thesis_AbuHamdenL_2018.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (64MB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

There are many studies dedicated to speech politics, yet the politics of listening remains an
underdeveloped area of research. The conditions by which judges, lawyers, police, legislators, and
witnesses listen—especially given the increasing employment of forensic audio technologies— deserve
closer inspection. This practice-based PhD thesis investigates the political and legal implications of
radically new modes of listening, recording, and audio analysis that have emerged since the
mid-1980s. It borrows strategies from forensic audio analysis and art to map out the contemporary
thresholds of audibility—both human and machinic—as new cultural and political frontiers where
issues of subjecthood, citizenship, and testimony are being defined.

This thesis is situated at the intersection of art, science, and advocacy, and as such each of the three
chapters, together with the methodological introduction, develop their argumentation through a
variety of means. The written component develops a historical and theoretical analysis of the ways in
which we listen, while in the practice portfolio I test these propositions through both audiovisual
artworks and investigative sonic experiments. The textual and practical dimensions are thus mutually
constitutive: the historical and theoretical enquiry feeds into the practice, while the practice
interrogates and attempts to materially implement these critical assumptions as political audio
investigations for human and civil rights.

In analysing the thresholds of sound and voice, we recurrently encounter forms of border-crossing, be
they material, juridical, sensorial, or conceptual. In Chapter 1 we see the ways in which the voice
transgresses the borders between states, both national and ontological. Chapter 2 discusses the blur
between foreground and background, sound and noise. In Chapter 3 the way sounds bleed through
the walls of a building leads us to the seepage between sound, sight, and touch.

The title Aural Contract refers to a shift from the oral to the aural, and from a contract between
speaking subjects towards a new set of propositions for the conditions by which we listen to one
another and can produce audible evidence. With this shift of analysis from speaking to listening, new
modes of political subjectivity emerge; a new spectrum of sounds and silences by which we can make
audible those at the threshold of politics—the political prisoner, the colonised, the ghettoised, and the

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


politics of listening, sound, audibility, forensic, investigations, speech, rights

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures > Centre for Research Architecture


31 March 2018

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

04 May 2018 10:50

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:13


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)