Vossius Center for the History of Humanities and Sciences

Vossius Research Fellow Jennifer Hsieh

6 March 2018

Jennifer Hsieh joins the Vossius Center in March 2018 for three months as a Research Fellow with her project 'Colonial Ears: Noise, Acoustics, and Hearing Bodies in Colonial Taiwan'.

About the project

Hsieh's project examines how ideas of noise emerged from both social critiques of urbanization and scientific developments in acoustics and how these two processes reflect translational practices regarding Japan’s colonial efforts to modernize Taiwan. How do quantifiable assessments of street noise and hearing ability become measurements of interest for colonial administrators? How does the cross-cultural transfer of technology by colonizers affect knowledge practices among the governed, and what happens to the application and development of that knowledge after the transition to the Chinese Kuomintang (KMT) regime in 1949?

Building upon sound studies scholars who have considered noise as a cultural artifact, Hsieh shows how noise is contoured by a specific geopolitical landscape. Noise control emerges in colonial Taiwan as a state-building project through which colonial administrators created not only regulatory policies but also perceptual categories for the differentiation of urban sounds.

About the researcher

Jennifer Hsieh received her PhD in Anthropology from Stanford University in September 2017 and was recently a Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. As an anthropologist of sound, Jennifer examines the role of acoustics in the construction of a modern state and the development of urban subjectivity. Her dissertation, Noise Governance and the Hearing Subject in Urban Taiwan, is an ethnographic and historical study of the technological, bureaucratic, and informal practices underlying the production of noise as a regulatory object in Taiwan from the mid-twentieth century to the present.

Published by  Vossius Center