Joella Bitter

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Duke U.

Grant number

Gr. 9375

Approve Date

October 11, 2016

Project Title

Bitter, Joella W., Duke U., Durham, NC - To aid research on 'Sounding the City: Noise Regulation and Everyday Rhythms in Gulu, Uganda,' supervised by Dr. Louise Meintjes

Preliminary abstract: In Uganda, urban growth has inspired ambitious World Bank-funded programs to make mid-sized towns into secondary cities. Gulu Municipality is one of these aspiring cities–one deeply invested in transforming itself from postwar town to thriving Acholi city. In the wake of a 20-year civil war, Gulu is a-buzz, as residents seek other ways to make life in the city possible. But this buzz, ‘noise’ to some, presents a conundrum: noise as a byproduct of sociality might indicate postwar vitality; but noise as an environmental, public violation threatens to curtail that vitality. Alongside technocratic (governmental and nongovernmental) efforts to regulate noise and organize Gulu’s urban environment, skilled-workers engage noise differently. Practices such as vehicle repair and music production fine-tune noise sources that–when circulated throughout the city–both sensorially define residents’ daily rhythms and tend to violate ‘official’ noise standards. How might processes of urbanization be understood sonically? How do ways of knowing-with and -through sound come to matter in city-making? And, in what ways do sounds announce a city’s emergence and help make it livable? Through ethnographic research with planning experts, music producers, and mechanics, and recording urban soundscapes, I illuminate how the tenor of life in Gulu continues to shape-shift as urbanization reworks violent legacies, Acholi lifeways that preceded the war, and the material histories that reside in Gulu’s topography.