Listening to Racism

Jennifer Lynn Stoever:
Listening to Racism in the United States, or: Why Sound Matters




Room 27.0.17 (building 27, groundfloor, room 17)
Department of Arts and Cultural Studies (IKK)
University of Copenhagen (KU)
Karin Blixens Vej 1
2300 Copenhagen


Guest lecture / Q&A: 13:00–14:30
Seminar with Jennifer Lynn Stoever: 15:00-16:30


No fee, but please register yourself to the lecture by sending an email to


Book website: The Sonic Color Line
Blog website: Sounding Out!


We talk too often about race and racism as if they are solely visual concepts. Jennifer Stoever’s lecture will unsettle the assumed relationship between race and looking by introducing the concept of the sonic color line and exploring the often undetected ways in which sound and listening have also functioned to produce and enforce racial hierarchies throughout U.S. history and in our present moment. Stoever will also discuss how the sonic color line has shaped sound media such as the radio, and how sound media, in turn, have disciplined us to hear race.  With examples ranging from nineteenth century American pop opera stars to cold war radio to #blacklivesmatter, this lecture explores how sound and listening not only register the racial politics of our world, but actively produce them.  Stoever argues that sound matters in our everyday lives and that we can work to shift our historically and culturally conditioned listening practices toward a more equitable world.

On the guest lecturer

​Jennifer Lynn Stoever ​​is Associate Professor at SUNY Binghamton, ​where she teaches courses on African American literature, sound studies, and race and gender representation in popular music. ​Stoever​ ​received her PhD in American Studies and Ethnicity from USC. Her dissertation, “The Contours of the Sonic Color-Line: Slavery, Segregation, and the Cultural Politics of Listening” was a 2007 finalist for the American Studies Association Dissertation Prize. She serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Popular Music Studies,​ ​Sound Studies, and Social Text. She has published in Social Text, Social Identities, Sound Effects, American Quarterly​ ​and Radical History Review among others​.
Stoever is project coordinator for the Binghamton Historical Soundwalk Project, a multi-year archival, civically-engaged art project designed to challenge how Binghamton students and year-round residents hear their town, themselves, and each other. She is also Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief for Sounding Out!: The Sound Studies Blog and her book The Sonic Color Line: Race and the Cultural Politics of Listening was published by New York University Press in 2016.

Material for participants

Seminar: Hip Hop, Cop Voice and the Cadence of White Supremacy in the United States

During this seminar, we will discuss how police officers in the United States use a racialized and gendered way of speaking called ‘cop voice’ to provoke fear and extreme forms of compliance from people of colour. Through autoethnographic analysis coupled with sonic attention to how Jay-Z (‘99 Problems’), Public Enemy (‘Get the Fuck Out of Dodge’) and Prince Paul (‘The Men in Blue’) represent ‘cop voice’ through shifts in their rapping flow or by using white guest rappers, we will explore how police weaponize their voices. Identifying and listening closely to these examples of cop voice reveals how people who are raced as ‘white’ in the United States mobilize this subject position in their voices through particular cadences that audibly signify racial authority, while at the same time, never hearing themselves as doing so.


NPR interview with Angela Ritchie + excerpt from Angela Ritchie, Invisible No More: Police Violence against Black Women and Women of Color. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2017.

Stoever, Jennifer: The Sonic Color Line, Black Women, and Police Violence. Black Perspectives, 9 July 2018.

Bradley, Regina: SANDRA BLAND: #SayHerName Loud or Not at All. Sounding Out! 16 November 2015.