Taiwan Studies Programme

Audiometry and environmental noise control in postwar Taiwan

B2 Hemsley, University Park
Thursday 15th March 2018 (16:30-18:30)

 If you are interested in attending please reserve your place by emailing Mandy Felton


The Taiwan Studies Programme (TSP) is delighted a to announce a seminar by Dr Jennifer Hsieh, Department of Anthropology, Stanford University which is taking place on 15 March 2018.


As part of democratic liberalization in the late 1970s and 1980s, noise abatement signified the Kuomintang (KMT) regime’s efforts to attend to the quality of life of local Taiwanese subjects. However, the use of scientific, objective indicators for noise, as decibels, had the effect of subjecting individual, human experience to the standardizing techniques of quantification and measurement. In this paper, I examine the application of Western technologies of audiometry and noise abatement in the context of Taiwan's transition to a postauthoritarian state. Following 16 months of ethnographic fieldwork and archival research at the Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration's Noise Control Office in Taipei, I trace interactions between otolaryngologists, policy makers, and public health educators behind the creation of Taiwan’s centralized noise management system.

Through an analysis of audiometric testing of hearing health among deaf schoolchildren to socio-acoustic surveys that assessed one’s noise tolerance levels, I examine how hearing and noise became an interest of the state—as both a continuation of surveillance practices and as a symbol of liberalization. This paper is part of a larger project in which I analyze how noise petitioners and civil servants in Taiwan mediate political engagement through the technocratic measurement of environmental noise.

Speaker biography

Jennifer Hsieh’s research lies at the intersection of history and anthropology, the global circulation of technology, and the legacies of colonial and authoritarian rule in modern-day Taiwan. She completed her Ph.D. in anthropology at Stanford University and is currently working on a book manuscript on the relationship between hearing and political subjectivity vis-à-vis Taiwan’s noise management apparatus. Her work has been funded by the Social Science Research Council and Wenner-Gren Foundation, and she has held fellowships at Stanford Humanities Center, Academia Sinica Institute of Ethnology, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, and Vossius Center at University of Amsterdam.

If you are interested in attending please reserve your place by emailing Mandy Felton

Taiwan Studies Programme

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD