Doing sonic urban ethnography: Voices from Shanghai, Berlin and London

Ana Aceska*, Karolina Doughty, Muhammet Esat Tiryaki, Katherine Robinson, Eva Tisnikar, Fang Xu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Matters of sound and listening are increasingly being attended to across the social sciences and humanities, reflecting what has been termed a ‘sonic turn’ since the early 2000s. In urban ethnographic research, scholars are starting to pay attention to the role of sound in social relations, in expressions of identity and senses of belonging, as well as in processes of othering. In this paper, we explore the theoretical and methodological opportunities of sonic urban ethnography, that is, an urban ethnography that foregrounds sound and listening in theoretical and methodological ways. We argue that the promise of sonic urban ethnography lies in its ability to interrupt the predominant focus on text and the visual by developing expanded practices of listening for alternative ways of knowing and engaging with the urban. We share four empirical vignettes from Shanghai, Berlin and London that illustrate, in their different ways, the power exercised through sound in the urban environment. Our discussion of the empirical cases highlights three key ‘lessons’ for doing sonic urban ethnography.
Original languageEnglish
JournalUrban Studies
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Feb 2024


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