In this article, I examine the discourse surrounding “listening stations” (surveillance outposts) that the Indian government has built to counter Chinese infrastructural projects in the Indian Ocean. As surveillance technologies are placed on out-of-the-way islands and deep underwater, the ocean is discursively situated in the press and diplomatic circles as a site where the geopolitical and sonic ‘noise’ of the metropole is evaded in virtue of the seeming fidelity of the sea, thus garnering potential for the listening stations to reveal China’s true geopolitical intentions. Drawing on classic securitization theory, as well as writings in the anthropology of security and sound studies, I argue that the positioning of listening stations as sites defined by listening and protection from Chinese encroachment obfuscates how they function as geopolitical speech and an expansion of Indian power. I coin the term “surveillance acoustemology” to refer to the ways that India’s listening stations spatialize India’s projected influence and its ability to hear its Chinese rival across the Indian Ocean.
To celebrate independence from France and promote better understanding between “continents, races, and cultures,” in 1966 Senegal produced the World Festival of Negro Arts. Forty-five nations participated. At its core were diplomatic goals involving music. Not only could music help Africans recover their pre-colonial heritage, it encouraged dialogue among cultures and cultural development fueling liberation from the colonial past. Listening for what was shared, as in jazz, and cooperating internationally, as in the Gorée spectacle and recordings competition, encouraged mutual understanding, the basis of alliances world-wide, essential for prosperity. By including African Catholic music, anglophone as well as francophone contributions, and radio broadcasts across Africa, the festival promoted inter-African alliances, necessary for lasting peace in Africa. Here, amid the cold war and this diverse soundscape of musical activities in Dakar, an African mode of diplomacy found its voice and its power. Dialogue, exchange, and cooperation would inspire a new future.
One of the first accomplishments of the Second Empire (1852–70) was to bring the Opéra under the control of a committee of the most highly placed politicians in the land. While this had far-reaching consequences for the development of repertory in the capital and beyond, it also opened up the possibility of using the Opéra as a locus of diplomatic activity, and major works and productions were made to work for diplomatic purposes. The Opéra emerged as a site of four types of diplomatic activities: the spectacle of state visits, the celebration and monumentalizing of military victories, the restoration and maintenance of good relations, and the promotion of Napoléon’s imperial project. Occasionally, as at the end of the “Crimean war,” the Opéra served as one of the sites for a series of prolonged negotiations that would lead to formal treaties.
That festivities are woven into the historical image of the Austrian diplomat, foreign minister, and state chancellor Clemens von Metternich (1773–1859) is in part the byproduct of his investment in music. As an amateur performer, passionate connoisseur, attentive patron, and frequent host, Metternich cultivated an international soundworld that presented opportunities for cooperative performances. Ensemble music and collective listening provided experiences of international concert that gained significance in the context of multilateral congresses and meetings. Musical exchanges, sustained through the activity of women and professional musicians, contributed to fostering diplomatic relations and international presence. In the context of the Restoration’s competing soundworlds, Metternich deployed a patronage of Rossini’s work and Italian opera music, with increasing intensity but mixed effect. This history speaks to the function of music in the presentation of self in international encounters and the resources to be found in the plurality of roles diplomats perform.