Abigail Gardner

Mapping the Music of Migration: Songs to Battle Silence


Mapping the Music of Migration (2019–2021) was a pan-European, 2-year listening project that aimed to add sound where there was silence by listening to stories from migrants talking about a song or piece of music that was important to them (Gardner and Hansen 2023). The intention was to try to counteract prevailing discourses that render the migrant voiceless, homogenous and either a threat or in need of saving (Braidotti 2013; Chouliaraki and Georgiou 2022). We wanted to de-exceptionalize displacement and provide routes to understanding through listening. Being listened to, being rendered audible, is key to a mode of belonging which is not only related to place and community (hooks 2009) but to time and memory. It is core to Listening, Belonging, and Memory (Gardner 2023), where I argue that connected listening lies at the center of current debates around whose voices might be listened to, who by, and why. Arguing that listening has to be understood in relation to the self, nation, age, witnessing, and memory, the book uses examples from empirical research and critical media analysis to highlight connections between listening and power (Radano and Olaniyan 2016, LaBelle 2018, Solnit 2022).

Drawing on the chapter, ‘Listening, Migration, Voice and Place’, this paper focuses on the team’s methods and the migrants’ stories, arguing that connected listening can open up enunciative spaces that afford witnessing and agency. With its focus on these small micro-engagements crouched within the superstructures of violent border control and the often-censorious policing of sonic citizenry, Mapping the Music of Migration illustrates the dynamics and politics that lie in and between listening and silence.


Abigail Gardner is Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Gloucestershire, UK. She is the author of several books including Ageing and Contemporary Female Musicians (Routledge 2020) and has researched ageing and gender in Popular Music. Her recent book turns to consider listening and discusses some of her empirical research with veterans and migrants (https://mamumi.eu). Listening, Belonging, and Memory (Bloomsbury 2023) centers on voices, stories, and silence, how they interweave, are activated, maneuvered, reconfigured, and denied. She is editor-in-chief of the International Association of the Study of Popular Music Journal, https://iaspmjournal.net/index.php/IASPM_Journal.