ANT2090 - Sound and Society

2021/2 Module description

This module is taught by Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology (College of Social Sciences and International Studies) and is displayed here for reference only. Any queries specifcally relating to this module should be directed to Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology.

StaffDr Tom Rice - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module description

This module explores the relationships between culture and the acoustic worlds in which people live. You will consider how the production and reception or interpretation of sound is shaped by human belief and practice. You will consider questions such as: What role does sound play in cultural and social life, past and present, close and distant? Why is a‘sound’ in one community considered to be another's ‘noise’? How do these differences or distinctions change over time? This course draws on material from anthropology and sociology, but also from a wide range of other disciplines including history, social geography and cultural studies. You will be encouraged to think and respond creatively, using listening as a way of accessing social life, and sound recording as a way of documenting or representing it.

Module aims

To explore ways in which the production and consumption of sound are bound up in social relations and practices.

To question cultural assumptions about the nature and possibilities of sound and listening.

To examine how key concepts (for example, ideas of 'place' and 'space') may be re-configured through acoustic perspectives.

To consider the implications of 'thinking acoustically' for anthropological methodology and analysis.

To interrogate listening and sound recording as ways of engaging with and representing social life.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Competently explain how some key texts give insight into the involvement of sound in social relations;
  • 2. Make competent critical assessments of some theoretical perspectives in anthropological and sociological approaches to the study of sound;
  • 3. Accurately identify and competently discuss some methodological issues associated with the study of sound in anthropology and sociology;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Give clear explanations of how some key concepts in sociology and anthropology can be illustrated in relation to the analysis of empirical data;
  • 5. Competently communicate, both in writing and orally, some awareness of strategies for analytically linking micro and macro perspectives;
  • 6. Show competence in critically assessing and developing theoretical ideas through reflection on experiences and observations of social life;

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Show an ability to engage in independent research and analysis;
  • 8. Competently build and defend an argument based on evidence;
  • 9. Communicate effectively in written and verbal form.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

1. Sound, Space and Place (part 1)

2. Sound, Space and Place (part 2)

3. Audible Pasts

4. Noise

5. Sound and Surveillance

6. Sound and Control

7. Sound and Sensory politics

8. Listening

9. Sonic sites (a case study of a particular sonic environment)

10. Anthropology in Sound

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity2211 x 2 hour seminars
Guided independent study40Examination preparation
Guided Independent Study42Module Reading
Guided independent study26Essay writing
Guided independent study20Seminar Preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Individual presentation15 minutes1-9Oral feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay502000 words1-9Written feedback
Listening report502000 words1-9Written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay (2,000 words)1-9August/September reassessment period
Listening ReportListening Report (2,000 words)1-9August/September reassessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

Bijsterveld, K. 2003.‘The Diabolical Symphony of the Mechanical Age. Technology and Symbolism of Sound in European and North American Noise Abatement Campaigns, 1900-1940’. In The Auditory Culture Reader (eds) M. Bull & L. Back, 165-189. Oxford: Berg.

Corbin, A. 1998. Village bells: sound and meaning in the nineteenth-century French countryside. New York: Columbia University Press.

Feld, S. 1990. Sound and Sentiment: birds, weeping, poetics, and song in Kaluli expression. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press

Picker, J. M. 2003. Victorian Soundscapes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rice, T. 2013. Hearing and the Hospital. Canon Pyon: Sean Kingston Press. 

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Web based and electronic resources:

Anthropology and Sound - online resource produced through a collaboration between the Centre for Creative Research in Sound Arts Practice at the London College of Communication and the Anthropology Department at the University of St Andrews -

Cusick, S. 2006. ‘Music as torture: Music as weapon’. Transcultural Music Review 10.

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Drever, J. 2005. Sounding Dartmoor. iDAT.

Feld, S. 1991. Voices of the Rainforest. Rykodisc.

Rice, T. 2015. Govindpuri Sound. BBC World Service Documentary.

Wynne, J. 2007. Hearts, Lungs and Minds. BBC Radio 4 documentary

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

sound, sound studies, music, society, sociology, anthropology,

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