Can the settler listen? Ryan Ben Shuvera, Sounding Unsettlement: Rethinking Settler States of Mind and Re(-)cognition through Scenes of Cross-Cultural Listening, PhD dissertation, University of Western Ontario, 2020


Abstract: In this dissertation I consider how listening to music produced by Indigenous peoples might convince settler listeners to surrender settler states of mind. I focus on the elements of settler colonialism that are exemplified in and challenged by the experiences of listening to music produced by Indigenous peoples. I focus on these aesthetic encounters as a way of exposing the everyday presence and power of settler states of mind and, more importantly, exploring how settlers might go about rebuilding states of mind through these moments of aesthetic surrender that are spurred by embodied experiences of sound. My project builds on the work of writers, theorists, and musicians such as African American writer James Baldwin, Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, writer, and artist Leanne Simpson, and Stó:lō scholar Dylan Robinson. I think about what it means to listen cross-culturally in the context of ongoing settler colonialism in North America (Turtle Island) and increased rhetoric around “reconciliation” in response to the conclusion of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) in 2015. I speak to the intimate level of listening to music from across cultures in this dissertation so that settlers might begin to engage in a critical self-reflection necessary for the rebuilding of settler states of mind—a reflection that involves a sense of surrender that requires settlers to learn how to participate in new worlds opened and led by various Indigenous peoples and nations.

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