Our engagement with the world is always interdependent and situated within environments and place. Listening is a way into feeling these relations. Because listening is so ubiquitous, its complexity and expansiveness are often diminished.
Narrowly (mis)construed as conditional on the ears and the voice, listening is understood as instrumental to sharing language. Listening is, as all communication, trained. It is encultured and geographically specific, shaped by social, political and economic forces, violence and oppression. Despite this, it is expected that we listen in universal ways. The fallacy of this is clear when you consider that even though we assume we listen carefully, being unheard, misheard or misunderstood is a common complaint.
How we listen is entwined with how we live and may give insight into how we tend to ourselves and others. Over three posts I will offer some reflections on listening as coming-to, listening as being-with and listening as taking-leave. These are based on events and encounters that occurred during time spent across several Pacific Islands as a visibly transgender, white German Australian ethnographer speaking predominantly with women, queer and transgender community organisers about anti-colonialism, self-determination and environmental crisis.
With these posts I want to emphasise why questions such as “from where do I listen? How do I listen? To what do I attend? What do I hear?” are necessary to thinking about environments and ecosystems. These questions show us that we are always working across difference, which is itself always in-becoming and unknown. The simplicity of such questions belies a profound and critical recognition and responsibility essential to any movement toward abolishing a world built on white supremacist violence and dispossession. The kind of listening that I am attempting to theorise alongside and play with here is unequivocally arduous, slow and constitutes many lifetimes work and thought undertaken by many people across many places. It seeks to undo how we know, live, relate and comport ourselves. It seeks to undo abstractions of harm, capitalist extraction, domination and complicity. It places us in definitive relation with how, where and what we inhabit and need to claim. What is at stake, then, in this listening is the dismantling of what we think we know toward an imagination of becoming otherwise.
Kanngieser AM 2021 To tend for, to care with: three pieces on listening as method.
Part 3: Listening as Taking-Leave. Seedbox Environmental Humanities Lab [Online]