Sound and Politics is an initiative of the Global Brazil Humanities Lab of the Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University. It aims to answer a question that seldom arises in the humanities and social sciences, but one that has the potential for great theoretical, methodological, and practical applications: What happens when we can listen to (and see) data, sources, and text, and not just read them?

Think about it. How much of communication is really based on words, but rather on things that we can only get to through listening or watching? Accent, tone of voice, volume, cadence, gestures, clothing – these are the things whose role in communication and in the political Sound and Politics seeks to understand.

In addition, Sound and Politics asks what we can learn when the audiovisual record is different from the written record. Why do written transcripts sometimes differ from the audiovisual sources upon which they are based? What political or ideological factors are at play when the written transcript contradicts the audiovisual one?

Although Sound and Politics is interested in these big questions about the role of sight and sound in human communication, it is also a project that is squarely focused on Brazil, its culture, its history, and its politics. Today, Brazil is at a crossroads, as in the wake of the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, her former vice president, Michel Temer, has instituted a political program that contradicts the center-left agenda of Rousseff and her Worker’s Party on almost every point. Many in the executive and legislative branches are fearful as they are targeted by a growing corruption investigation. Now, more than ever, it is essential that both Brazilians and foreigners who are interested in the country understand what makes Brazilian political culture tick, how politics have changed over time and what has remained the same, and how audiovisual sources can help us answer these questions more effectively.

Over time, we hope that researchers from other universities, in both the Anglophone world and Brazil, will be inspired to contribute to Sound and Politics. We already are proud to enjoy the collaboration of students at the University of Georgia and the Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro.

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