CfP: Sound, Language and the Making of Urban Space

University of Copenhagen. August 24th and 25th 2023

Contemporary histories of sound and hearing often open with a lament that this subject matter has too long been ignored in favor of studies of the written word or of vision. But over the last two decades, auditory history has entered the discipline with a vengeance—at the intersection of the history of music, the body, technology, medicine, disability, the environment, and everyday life.

Thus wrote the American historian Sophia Rosenfeld a decade ago. Since then, the study of sound history, listening regimes, auditory practices and the cultural history of noise and silence has continued to bloom and bud, often with the context of the city and urban life at its center. From the late Raymond Murray Schafer’s pioneering studies of the urban soundscape via Bruce Smith’s concept of “acoustic communities” and Karin Bijsterveld’s and Peter Payer’s explorations into the conceptualization and abatement of urban noise to Emily Thompson’s study of architectural acoustics. Lately new approaches focusing on social engineering, the sonic personae, auditory cultures and sonic affects in the production of urban space have appeared and further our knowledge and curiosity about the interrelationship between sound and the city.

Although rarely treated in the context of historical sound studies, the diversity of languages also forms a central part of urban soundscapes. Conversations, shouts and singing, in the marketplaces, busses, schoolyards etc. work as semiotic elements in human constructions of and navigation in urban spaces. In recent years, the study of dialects has also circled back to the city, investigating, and rediscovering how urban communities are both shaped by and shaping linguistic development on the national level and beyond.

This conference centers on the city, the metropolis, and on sound and language as central elements in the production of urban spaces and communities. The organizers particularly welcome contributions that explore ways in which sonic and linguistic approaches to urban communities, lifestyles and practices can enrich each other.

We also invite paper proposals from scholars of all fields centering on questions such as
  • How have sounds, soundscapes, noise and human utterings been portrayed as part of the urban experience past and present?
  • How have sound, noise and language been used to delineate class, gender, race and other hierarchies in the city?
  • How have the materiality, architecture and structure of the city affected the configuration of soundscapes and sonic experiences?
  • How can we reconsider notions of privacy, social boundaries and community by studying past sonic practices?
  • What are the relevant methodologies and sources for the study of silence, noise and listening practices of urban communities in the past?
Confirmed keynote speakers are Karin Bijsterveld, Sophia Rosenfeld, and David Garrioch.

To participate:
  • Paper proposals of up to 300 words plus short bio of up to 100 words to be send to
  • Jakob Ingemann Parby before January 2nd 2023.
Confirmation of acceptance of proposal: February 15th 2023.

All accepted speakers should deliver a 2000-word paper by June 15th 2023. The papers will be published in the conference proceedings following the event. Guidelines for the papers will be sent to accepted contributors in late February.

Participation is free for speakers.

Participation fee for other participants: 100 DKK (lunch and coffee included).