Listening, with Les Back

Uncommon Sense

20-01-2023 • 45分

What does it mean to really listen in a society obsessed with spectacle? What’s hidden when powerful people claim to “hear” or “give voice” to others? And what’s at stake if we think that using fancy recording devices helps us to neatly capture “truth”?

Les Back – author of “The Art of Listening” – tells Alexis and Rosie why listening to society is crucial, but cautions that there’s nothing inherently superior about the hearing sense. Rather, we must “re-tune our ears to society” and listen responsibly, with care, and in doubt.

Plus: why should we think critically before accepting invitations to “trust our senses”? And why do so many sociologists also happen to be musicians?

Guest: Les Back
Hosts: Rosie Hancock, Alexis Hieu Truong
Executive Producer: Alice Bloch
Sound Engineer: David Crackles
Music: Joe Gardner
Artwork: Erin Aniker

Find more about Uncommon Sense at The Sociological Review.

Episode Resources

Les, Rosie, Alexis and our producer Alice recommended

From The Sociological Review

By Les Back

Further reading and viewing

  • “Hustlers, Beats, and Others” – Ned Polsky
  • “The Politics of Listening: Possibilities and Challenges for Democratic Life” – Leah Basel
  • “The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches” – W. E. B. Du Bois
  • “Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black” – bell hooks
  • “White woman listen! Black feminism and the boundaries of sisterhood” – Hazel Carby
  • “Presentation fever and podium affects” – Yasmin Gunaratnam
  • “Ear Cleaning: Notes for an Experimental Music Course” – Murray Schafer

Also, have a look at the scholarly work of Paul Gilroy and Frantz Fanon, and the music of Evelyn Glennie.