Mourning the Nightingale’s Song: The Audibility of Networked Performances in Protests and Funerals of the Arab Revolutions

  • Shayna Silverstein Northwestern University


Since the disintegration of Syrian society in 2011, my ethnographic methods have substantively adapted towards digital media and social networking and away from in-situ fieldwork. In the course of making this understandable shift, I have grown more attentive to the role of sound in sustaining a feeling of "being there" and how a particular sense of place emerges despite or perhaps due to the hybridity of lives, on/offline and in/out of Syria. This article considers the relationship between the real and digital mediation as mutually constitutive and attends to how sonic mediations amplify such intermediality; it is arguably through the affective politics of recorded sound that I, and others, am able to sustain the presence of connection, however networked, decentered, and partial. Yet the challenge in thinking about the intermedial relations of sound is not only the privilege afforded image in the representational economy—of violence in particular—but also how these mediations affect structures of feeling that are vital to global civic engagement and the narratives that sustain engagement. This paper traces my participation in the formation of particular narratives, their divergences and convergences, among networked publics in the five years since the Syrian uprising to ask whether and how mediated sound engages us more deeply and intimately in intermedial acts of world-making.

Author Biography

Shayna Silverstein, Northwestern University

Shayna M. Silverstein is assistant professor in the School of Communication at Northwestern University. Her research examines the politics and aesthetics of sound and movement in the contemporary Middle East and her current book project, an analysis of the politics and ethos of movement (ḥarake in Syrian Arabic), argues that Syrian dabke, a popular dance music suffused with cultural memory and nationhood, has paradoxically contributed to social fragmentation throughout and leading up to the Syrian conflict.

Ethics of Performance and Scholarship