Laura Kunreuther- Voicing Subjects

Kunreuther, L. (2014). Voicing subjects: Public intimacy and mediation in Kathmandu. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Voicing Subjects is an inquiry into the figure of the voice and the set of discourses, practices, and technologies that give it meaning. To speak of a figure of the voice is to draw attention to the multiple and varied meanings of voice that traverse this ethnography- 3.

Kunreuther focuses on metalanguage across mediums and how “the act of speaking comes to stand more generally for a new set of social relations, between citizen and state, between men and women, between youth and older generations” -3.

4- I show the voice to be a sign of the personhood and individuality that are considered inherent in any human body, a particularly intimate cultural and historical convention of identification that marks personal specificity.

Voice to Kunreuther includes the political and intimate. The political turmoil in Nepal sets up a dichotomy between state censorship and the neoliberal self (6).

7- By technologies of voice, I refer here to a nexus of practices, discourses, and machines of everyday life that have emerged and proliferated in Nepal since the first liberalizing jana andolan of 1990.

9- two cultural phenomena; the first was the visible explosion of political expression evident in the proliferation of ethnic nationalist movements, new newspapers, and new media throughout the 1990s, and in the nationwide strikes and reform movements.

10- the second phenomenon was a notable proliferation in public expressions of personal feelings and intimate relations, particularly among youth. Entertainment programs and conversations on television, radio, or telephone pronounced the voice to be an ideal medium for conveying emotional proximity and presence and defined an “intimate voice”.

Voice and speaking are key to self-conscious individuality; part of the neo-liberal ideology (a subject is self-sufficient and can make their own choices).

11- political and intimate voice often overlap; “I argue that a political voice (associated with democratic participation, consciousness, and agency) and an intimate voice (associated with interior feeling, emotional directness, and authentic communication) are mutually constitutive, since both are important aspects of modern subjectivities emerging and present in contemporary Kathmandu.

  • Argument (11): political and intimate voice as constitutive and both are modern emergent subjectivities

Emergent subjectivities: hailing (the self in relation to the state), raising your voice, gender and class relations interpersonally.

Subjectivity is coming out of Althusser; sound of voice is coming from the ethnomusicology/anthropology of voice. Metapragmatics: acting force of speaking (22).


  • Voice: Aawaaj
    • Multiple and carried meaning (3)
    • Metalanguage (3)
    • As a sign of personhood (4)
    • Figure of voice = plurality of voices/democracy (4)
  • Differences between voice and the figure of voice: (4) a nexus of metaphor associated with the voice as sign of intimacy, consciousness, presence associated with bodies of selfhood central to democratic political agency. Voice as meta/metalanguage.
    • Democratic reforms mentioned in the book: property rights, FM stations and what they could play
  • 23- three main focuses: voice, mediation, subjectivity
    • voice
    • medium: radio, mobiles, face to face, ritual
    • subjectivity:
      • Althusser (12), Bakhtin, Locke, Butler (13)
      • Already existing subjects
    • Angsa and Bolaaune
      • 42-43; gendered division of speech and action due to birthright
      • Angsa: birthright property; power, genealogy, voice. 90
    • Double lives of married women
    • Looking at Face: Mukh Herne
      • 100/101: Darshan & asymmetry, receiving darshan from king
      • shift in photographs and receiving darshan. 115
        • 116- circulation
      • Technology of voice: FM radio, telephone (7)
      • Rise of FN Radio as technology of voice that forms political and intimate subjectivity
        • Characteristics: temporal and material qualities (rearrange)
        • Emphasis on participation
        • Spatial: public vs. private (listening to the radio at home transitions the space to public)
        • Invites active expression of sentiment, suffering, and internal discontent

The way Kunreuther proves her point about the political and intimate voice often overlapping is through her analysis of radio FM. “I link radio sociality with questions of “raising voice”, political and intimate subjectivity, as well as ideas about presence and directness and what it means to be publics” (125).

Mediatization: the links between processes of communication and processes of commodification (126). FM radio as the ultimate medium for enabling increased participation in public and political life (127).

Radio had its hooks in the middle class originally (133).

The beginning of FM radio fit well into broader agendas of international development agencies and the Nepali business community, both of which sought to liberalize the public sphere and the broader political economy after the jana andolan. (135)

FM radio was a symbol of new participatory, democratic moment. Radio was a catalyst for discussion and questioning authority (137).

141- the specifically Kathmandu listening community is based on an imagined sense of emotional proximity between urban residents, combined rather jaringly with a heightened awareness of social class and geographic distance.

143- English as symbolic capital


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