Audible Citizenship and the politics of listening within two refugee and asylum seeker services in Greater Manchester.

  • Ben Knight

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis argues for the need to develop a politics of listening attuned to the visceral nature of communicative encounters in order to explore the affective economies of auditory experience. It does so by drawing on a sonic ethnography conducted within two refugee and asylum-seeker services in Greater Manchester to understand how the state listens and how everyday interactions within semi-institutional spaces come to be imbued with state affects whilst still holding the potential to challenge such power structures. Across this thesis, listening is conceived of as an intersubjective and sensuous act of citizenship through which modes of belonging and community are negotiated and public space is co-constituted by diverse actors. Sound will be understood as a visceral phenomena and listening responses as both unpredictable and uncomfortable. What creates a sense of coherence or solidarity between some could provoke feelings of unease in others, and therefore, can be equally felt as a disruptive noise. To explore the listening cultures of the two refugee and asylum-seeker services, a sonic ethnographic research design has been developed that proposes three inter-related methods of listening. The research practices are Dialogic, Ambient and Layered listening. These three listening practices shape a mixed methods research design that incorporates traditional methods such as observer-participation, informal conversations and semi-structured interviews alongside more experimental approaches such as auto-ethnographic sound writing and audio recording. The overall aims of this thesis are to get to grips with the political possibilities of listening within everyday spaces and how such encounters disrupt how the state listens and how counter-public spaces come into being through ordinary acts that challenge the wider hostile environment towards migrants in the UK.
Date of Award31 Dec 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJamie Doucette (Supervisor)


  • Audible citizenship
  • Sonic Geographies
  • Emotional geographies
  • Asylum seeker geographies

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