“Sound is a Dimension of Reality”: Robin James on Theorizing Sound, Race, and Gender 

The way that we organize society also manifests in the way that we organize sound. The relations among people become relations among sounds that are perceived in terms of analogous gendered and raced relations.”

In this episode

In this installment in our mini-series focused on sound, media, and art, Caitlin Woolsey speaks with Robin James. An associate professor of philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Robin explores the intersections of pop music, sound studies, feminism, race, and contemporary continental philosophy. They discuss how Robin sees popular music as a kind of archive, and how her work often sits uneasily within institutional disciplines. Throughout the conversation, Robin critiques theoretical approaches that idealize sound as neutral or reparative, and in so doing reproduce hegemonic neoliberal and biopolitical projects. 


Robin James is associate professor of philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and co-editor of The Journal of Popular Music Studies. She is the author of three books: The Sonic Episteme: Acoustic Resonance, Neoliberalism, and Biopolitics (Duke University Press, 2019), Resilience & Melancholy: Pop Music, Feminism, and Neoliberalism (Zero, 2015), and The Conjectural Body: Gender, Race and the Philosophy of Music (Lexington Books, 2010). Her work on feminism, race, contemporary continental philosophy, pop music, and sound studies has appeared in The Guardian, Los Angeles Review of Books, BELT Magazine, The New Inquiry, Noisey, popula, SoundingOut!, Hypatia, differences, Contemporary Aesthetics, and The Journal of Popular Music Studies. 

This conversation was recorded on October 23, 2020. 

related resources