Decolonized Listening in the Archive: A Study of How a Reconstruction of Archival Processes and Spaces can Contribute to Decolonizing Narratives and Listening


In 2019, Dylan Robinson and Candice Hopkins began touring their exhibition Soundings: An Exhibition in Five Parts, which asks “How can a score be a call and tool for decolonization?” In response to this question, Indigenous artists contributed scores in the form of beadwork, graphic notation, written instructions, and other works, that offer “instructions for sensing and listening to Indigenous histories that trouble the colonial imaginary” (Robinson, Hopkins). Drawing upon the exhibit Soundings, as well as Robinson’s book Hungry Listening (2020), this proposal seeks to understand how to decolonize archives in ways that impact the appraisal, preservation, and experience of music created by Indigenous artists. Additionally, Hungry Listening argues that by increasing our awareness of and acknowledging our settler colonial listening habits, we can engage in decolonial listening practices that can deepen our understandings of how Indigenous song functions in history, medicine, and law. The main research questions of this study are: how can we apply decolonized listening to archival spaces? How can we ensure that Indigenous scores remain decolonized in an archive? Archival spaces maintain colonial ideologies and narratives through the acts of appraisal and preservation. Nonetheless, this study suggests that by engaging in post-custodianship and in the dismantling and re-constructing of archival spaces and processes, decolonial narratives and listening can thrive.

Apr 28, 2021 4:20 PM
Sofie Tsatas
Sofie Tsatas
McGill University, Quebec, Canada

Sofie Athanasia Tsatas is a music historian and aspiring archivist currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Information Studies at McGill University. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Music from McGill University and her M.A. in Musicology from the University of British Columbia. Her research interests include decolonization and music, accessibility, and mental health, and how those are reflected in archives and archival spaces.