Listening to Love: Aural Attention, Vocal Iconicity and Intimacy in Somaliland

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Both music and love are conspicuously absent from the public soundscapes of Hargeysa, Somaliland. But behind closed doors, people listen to love songs. In doing so, these lonely love sufferers and love hopefuls make sense of various challenges. Using accounts from a cross section of Somalilanders, I show that these solitary listening practices open into uniquely intimate and transformative opportunities for dareen-wadaag (feeling sharing). These opportunities critically depend both on listeners’ attention and intention, and on the culturally elaborated affective affordances of love songs’ “voice”—a voice that is conceived as “love incarnate” and that models intimacy. In short, listeners do not just listen to love songs; they listen to love. Their listening practices call for anthropological models that more fully account for the relationship between culturally situated ears and voices, as well as for the complex interrelation of sound, affect, and subjectivity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-190
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Ethnologist
Issue number2
Early online date27 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2022
Externally publishedYes

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