Listening Backward: Sonic Intimacies and Cross-Racial, Queer Resonance


  • Katelyn Hale Wood University of Virginia


Documenting my encounters as a white queer scholar with the sonic archive of the late black American lesbian comic Jackie “Moms” Mabley, this paper explores the cross-racial/sexual politics of sonic historiography. Through what I term listening backward, I examine how sound procures queer sonic intimacies between critic and subject: the repetitive listening, soundwaves directly travelling from one voice to one person, and most pertinently, the historical and sociocultural contexts that make consumption of such exchange possible and/or fraught. This listening practice centres on relational and resonant modes of archiving through sound and asks: (1) How can exploring methods of sonic documentation align performance studies’ commitment to archiving the affective? (2) What might attention to not only the product of such documentation but also its performative processes offer about how the sonic can deepen modes of performance historiography and the racial/sexual politics of listening? (3) What practices of listening can centre queer intimacies and temporalities in the archive?



Author Biography

Katelyn Hale Wood, University of Virginia

Katelyn Hale Wood is assistant professor in the Department of Drama at the University of Virginia, and the author of Cracking Up: Black Feminist Comedy in the Twentieth and Twenty-first Century United States (forthcoming from University of Iowa Press in 2021). Wood’s research engages the intersections of critical race and queer theory, gender studies, and comedic performance. Their work has been published in Theatre Topics, QED: A Journal in GLTBQ Worldmaking, and Departures in Critical Qualitative Research.






Ethics of Performance and Scholarship