“Nothing but Noyse”: The political complexities of English maritime and colonial soundscapes

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Abstract

On early modern ships on the Atlantic Ocean, the sounds that the maritime lower classes produced with their tongues led the captains and officers to consider members of these classes as savage as the colonial others. The argument presented here explores the ship as a world of sound and its lower classes' place within larger colonial soundscapes. This demonstrates how the sailor inhabited an ambivalent place between self and other. He lived within ships, which signified both the triumph of empire and potentially threatening aural spaces in themselves. The article then turns to English voyage narratives from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century in order to show how sailors were conceived as making “noise.” Such descriptions worked anxiously toward silencing sailors by delineating what they had the ability to articulate on the basis of their social position. Hence, the sailor was thought by his superiors as unable to speak politically because such language was outside of what experience had taught him.
Original languageEnglish
JournalRadical History Review
Issue number121
Pages (from-to)106-122
Number of pages15
ISSN0163-6545
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2015

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