ACUMEN Spring 2022

22 ACUMEN • SPRING 2022 Her monograph begins with the ethnographic context in which phonographic recordings of captured foreigners held in German prisoner-ofwar camps were collected by the Royal Prussian Phonographic Commission between 1915 and 1918. Many of the prisoners heard on the recordings are colonial soldiers from the African continent and the Indian subcontinent who were coerced into war by their colonial rulers, France, England and Russia. Captured colonial soldiers were frequently interned together and subject to additional military and ideological strategies in an effort to turn them against their former armies. While this effort ultimately failed, the detained prisoners of war became objects of various scientific research projects, including the one carried out by the Royal Prussian Phonographic Commission. The ostensible aim of the commission was to systematically record the different languages and music of all those interned in the camps. The project included more than 50 scientists from the fields of linguistics, musicology and anthropology. “I’m using this specific project as a paradigmatic example of colonial listening,” Landry says. “But ultimately, I wanted In the academic discipline of postcolonialism, the concept of the “colonial gaze” attempts to explain the relationship between the European colonial powers of the 19th and early 20th century and the people of the countries they colonized. Specifically, it refers to how the colonized were represented in visual media such as photography and film. The idea is that the colonial gaze placed the colonized in a position of the “backwards other” that helped maintain the colonizer’s identity as the powerful conqueror and civilizer and served as a justification of colonial rule. Olivia Landry, assistant professor of German in the department of modern languages and literatures, has been researching what she calls the “colonial ear,” which, similar to the colonial gaze, explores how the colonized were represented by the colonizers in audio recordings. “It’s easy to think about the relationship between colonialism and photography—and even early cinema,” says Landry, who is also director of the film studies program. “But we rarely think about colonialism in relation to listening because we have this idea that listening is a kind of gesture of openness and empathy.” Landry’s upcoming book, A Decolonizing Ear: Documentary Film, the Empire, and the Sound Archive, is the culmination of her research at the Free University of Berlin last summer. STEVE NEUMANN CHRISTINE KRESCHOLLEK Peeling Back the Colonial Shellac Olivia Landry’s third book asks what documentary film can do to unsettle colonialist conceptions of the colonized