Listening to War: Sound, Music, Trauma, and Survival in Wartime Iraq
J. Martin Daughtry
To witness war is, in large part, to hear it. And to survive it is, among other things, to have listened to it–and to have listened through it.
Listening to War: Sound, Music, Trauma, and Survival in Wartime Iraq is a groundbreaking study of the centrality of listening to the experience of modern warfare. Based on years of ethnographic interviews with U.S. military service members and Iraqi civilians, as well as on direct observations of wartime Iraq, author J. Martin Daughtry reveals how these populations learned to extract valuable information from the ambient soundscape while struggling with the deleterious effects that it produced in their ears, throughout their bodies, and in their psyches. Daughtry examines the dual-edged nature of sound–its potency as a source of information and a source of trauma–within a sophisticated conceptual frame that highlights the affective power of sound and the vulnerability and agency of individual auditors. By theorizing violence through the prism of sound and sound through the prism of violence, Daughtry provides a productive new vantage point for examining these strangely conjoined phenomena. Two chapters dedicated to wartime music in Iraqi and U.S. military contexts show how music was both an important instrument of the military campaign and the victim of a multitude of violent acts throughout the war. A landmark work within the study of conflict, sound studies, and ethnomusicology, Listening to War will expand your understanding of the experience of armed violence, and the experience of sound more generally. At the same time, it provides a discrete window into the lives of individual Iraqis and Americans struggling to orient themselves within the fog of war.