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Struggles for power over a festival soundscape
Lorenzo Ferrarini

This chapter centres on the mountain pilgrimage dedicated to the Madonna del Pollino, and on the conflict between clergy and devotees on the proper forms of sonic devotion. This term refers to the production and listening experience of sounds dedicated to a sacred figure, which are most of the time music – playing an instrument, singing – but also, by extension, dancing. The chapter describes these forms in their evolution through the years, tracing the role of an ethnographic documentary from the early 1970s in stigmatising them, and subsequently accounts for the ways in which the clergy exerted control over the pilgrimage through three strategies of control of its soundscape: the use of demarcations of space to identify certain sounds as noise; the encouragement of a passive experience of sound to create ethical listeners; and the use of technologies of amplification to establish an asymmetry in the production of sounds. Each strategy is connected to the thought of key thinkers in the literature on sound and social control, and especially to the work of Michel Foucault, who is better known for his reflections on the application of vision and technologies of making visible to social control. Finally, the chapter traces a different trajectory of these politics of the sonorous in another religious festival, where the clergy successfully manages to keep the diverse aspects of the ritual by using a sound system to allocate sonic space in turn to prayers, walking bands and traditional music.

in Sonic ethnography
Open Access (free)
Identity, heritage and creative research practice in Basilicata, southern Italy

Sonic ethnography explores the role of sound-making and listening practices in the formation of local identities in the southern Italian region of Basilicata. The book uses a combination of text, photography and sound recording to investigate soundful cultural performances such as tree rituals, carnivals, pilgrimages, events promoting cultural heritage and more informal musical performances. Its approach demonstrates how in the acoustic domain tradition is made and disrupted, power struggles take place and acoustic communities are momentarily brought together in shared temporality and space. This book underlines how an attention to sound-making, recording and listening practices can bring innovative contributions to the ethnography of an area that has been studied by Italian and foreign scholars since the 1950s. The approaches of the classic anthropological scholarship on the region have become one of the forces at play in a complex field where discourses on a traditional past, politics of heritage and transnational diasporic communities interact. The book’s argument is carried forward not just by textual means, but also through the inclusion of six ‘sound-chapters’, that is, compositions of sound recordings themed so as to interact with the topic of the corresponding textual chapter, and through a large number of colour photographs. Two methodological chapters, respectively about doing research in sound and on photo-ethnography, explain the authors’ approach to field research and to the making of the book.

Listening to the Campanaccio of San Mauro Forte
Nicola Scaldaferri

This chapter introduces the concept of soundmask, that is, the temporary taking up of a sonic identity, a disguise that is perceived aurally, superseding the visual one, with reference to the ritual of the Campanaccio in the village of San Mauro Forte. Here, the participants in this ritual opening of the Carnival period do not wear face masks and do not use the giant animal bells they carry to create sonic chaos, unlike many other Carnival occasions involving bells. The chapter investigates the role of sound in creating a sense of community beyond its symbolic functions, the function of rhythm and bodily involvement in the creation of a group identity, and the relationship between sound and the space of the village. It suggests that soundmasks create a form of group identity that is played out as synchronicity and as sonic duels between teams of bell carriers, in a nocturnal setting in which the acoustic dimension acquires more importance over the visual. Starting from previous studies of the symbolic role of the playing of bells in the same period as the seasonal slaughter of domestic pigs, the chapter suggests that the original function of the ritual was to cleanse the village through acoustic means, washing it in soundwaves. Finally, it analyses the role of the institutionalisation of anthropological interpretations and of the insertion of the festival in a circuit of cultural tourism. The textual component of the chapter is followed by a photographic sequence that dialogues with the related sound recordings.

in Sonic ethnography
The revival of Lucanian wheat festivals
Lorenzo Ferrarini

This chapter is entirely composed of a photo essay, which includes photographs made between 2005 and 2020. It focusses on the revival of wheat rituals, which often involve offerings of ears of wheat dedicated to a saint or the Madonna. The photo essay connects this phenomenon with, on the one hand, processes of touristic promotion and heritagisation, and, on the other, with the shifting meanings acquired by the agricultural past in Basilicata, which give wheat festivals an aura of authenticity and nostalgia. The text and images go behind the scenes of the preparation of these rituals, tracing the way that past ethnographic research can be mobilised in a local context to validate the authenticity of a festival, or showing how people experience the emotional power of their association with the agricultural past through activities, skills and sensations that evoke it directly. This chapter, in addition to underlining the social functions of identity- and community-making that wheat festivals still perform, suggests that their protagonists have taken up a conscious and active role in representing their heritage, often appropriating stereotypes and exoticist depictions.

in Sonic ethnography
Open Access (free)
Recorded memories and diasporic identity in the archive of Giuseppe Chiaffitella
Nicola Scaldaferri

This chapter deals with the analysis of an archival body, and in particular with the sound recordings made by Giuseppe Chiaffitella, an emigrant from San Costantino Albanese who moved to New York during the 1910s. In the central part of the twentieth century, every time Chiaffitella crossed the Atlantic he would carry recorded messages, music, soundscapes and soundmarks. His use of the sound recorder to create ‘sound souvenirs’ played a role in keeping alive the connections between the people of the village and their relatives in the USA. The chapter argues that the mediatisation of sound, and especially voice, can be a powerful way to increase its affective value and lead to the creation of transnational listening communities. This is especially true in the case of a second-stage diaspora such as that of the Arbëresh (Italians of Albanian origin) who moved to the USA, for whom linguistic identity and oral tradition form additional layers of complexity. Chiaffitella’s sensitivity to the emotional value of sound makes his recordings pioneering in their attention to the context and the diachronic dimension, especially compared with recordings by professional researchers of his time. The chapter also includes photographs from the research stage and a selection of images from Chiaffitella’s vast photographic archive.

in Sonic ethnography
Open Access (free)
Towards a sonic ethnography of the Maggio festival in Accettura
Lorenzo Ferrarini and Nicola Scaldaferri

This chapter outlines the concept of sonic ethnography and applies it to the Maggio festival in Accettura, the most impressive tree ritual in Italy. Sonic ethnography puts sound at its centre by taking it seriously and listening critically during fieldwork. It also uses sound as a medium in which to do research, and as a way to represent its outcomes. Our approach revealed how classic analyses of the festival downplayed its acoustic component and the role of musical performances in governing the collective labour necessary for the festival to succeed. Highly complex, entailing multiple manoeuvres taking place simultaneously and often very dangerous, the transport and raising of a massive tree in the main square represents the core of the ritual, and takes place in a sonic stream made of loud wind bands, animal calls and drunken singing. We highlight how governing sound allows a safe and successful festival. The textual component of the chapter is followed by a photographic sequence that dialogues with the related sound recordings.

in Sonic ethnography
Enacting human rights in mental health care in Ghana
Ursula M. Read

The removal of vagrant lunatics from the streets of African cities has a long history in the context of colonial and postcolonial urbanization. However, the emergence of rights-based approaches to mental illness as part of the growing influence of global mental health in Ghana has led to a reframing of this historical legacy within the context of mental health reform. The continued practice of forcibly removing persons with mental illness for treatment within the psychiatric hospitals aims to appease public concerns over growing homelessness among mentally ill persons. At the same time it is also deployed as evidence of efforts to enact new mental health legislation to international agencies. This case illustrates the entanglements and tensions arising from attempts to enact mental health reform in a way which resonates both with international psychiatric practice and human rights and with local expectations of social order and development.

in Global health and the new world order
From colonial to cross-cultural psychiatry in Nigeria
Matthew M. Heaton

This chapter examines the development of mental health services during decolonization in Nigeria from the 1950s to 1970s, focusing particular attention on the life and work of Thomas Adeoye Lambo, Nigeria’s first European-trained psychiatrist of indigenous background. By connecting his psychiatric research and practice to local cultural expectations, nationalist developmentalist agendas and international programmes in cross-cultural psychiatric research, Lambo helped to cement professional psychiatry in Nigeria in ways that expanded upon the significantly underdeveloped colonial model. However, at the same time he adapted the European paradigm to better fit local circumstances, and those adaptations in turn recirculated into the global discourse, effecting a globalization of the way psychiatrists around the world thought about the nature and treatment of mental illness. The chapter argues that the development of mental health infrastructure in Nigeria was therefore local, national and international in ways that allow for more nuanced historical studies of the links between colonial psychiatry and contemporary global mental health agendas.

in Global health and the new world order
Abstract only
In search of global health
Didier Fassin

This chapter mobilizes the author’s double-sided experience as physician and anthropologist to reflect on what global health is about, what it is doing and what the social sciences – anthropology foremost, given its long engagement with the life of ‘others’ – have to say about it. Building on the idea that global health is both under-theorized and hyper-normative, the chapter identifies five lines of tensions whose dialectics are worth taking into account and analysing, since, at first sight, they look like irremediable polarities of the field, i.e. worldwide vs universal, moral vs economic, compassion vs predation, facts vs representations, scale vs time.

in Global health and the new world order
Constructing population in the search for disease genes
Steve Sturdy

Numerous studies describe the genetic make-up of populations living outside Europe and North America. Many of these tackle human genetic variation with the explicit aim of identifying gene variants of medical significance for the populations studied. However, the chapter points to rather different motivations, showing how recent studies documenting the genetic constitution of non-Western populations have grown out of, and serve the purposes of, efforts to identify genetic factors which influence the health of populations in Europe and North America. Analysing the past thirty-five years of medical research literature, the chapter shows how, in this context, efforts to identify genetic variants of possible significance for disease aetiology have shifted to include large-scale association studies in populations rather than families. It discusses how research with local concerns must nonetheless take into account the global distribution of genes and genotypes, thus making studies of the genetic causes of disease, wherever conducted, increasingly global in their purview. The chapter also argues that this recent knowledge of human population genomics has developed in a way which reinscribes ideas of racial difference into biomedical understanding of human populations, and creates tools for excluding supposedly non-Western populations from research oriented towards the concerns of Western institutions.

in Global health and the new world order