Weaponizing Quietness: Sound Bombs and the Racialization of Noise

Published by the Design & Culture Journal in June 2019.

This paper discusses the role of design and material practices on the weaponization of quietness through the deployment of sound bombs by the Military Police of São Paulo, Brazil. Probing into the contradiction of using a device that produces loudness to enforce silence laws, I offer an account of how designed artifacts and techniques can be instrumentalized by the State for the policing of racialized bodies and their sonic/musical practices. As it will be argued, these artifacts and techniques create and reproduce mechanisms with which to produce both physical and social distance between bodies perceived to be “loud” and their silence-enforcing counterpart (i.e. the Police). This extends the reach and scope of the segregation of (auditory) space through techniques other than architecture and urban planning alone. I begin with an analysis of a few violent strategies employed by the Military Police to enforce silence laws in lower-class neighborhoods in the city, as depicted in a filmed raid edited and posted at their own social media channels. I then read these practices through the history of the so-called “stun grenade,” or sound bomb and its use in both military and civilian contexts. Lastly, I examine a semi-fictional proposition for disrupting the enforcement of silence – found in the 2015 movie Branco Sai, Preto Fica by Adirley Queirós. I argue the movie proposes a decolonizing shift in the perception of loudness and noise vis-à-vis racialized bodies.   

Read the full paper here: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17547075.2019.1609283?journalCode=rfdc20