ResearchWorks: To write and to sing

  • 5pm
fountain pen writing on a piece of paper
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About this event:

Platform / Discussion | Research | ResearchWorks
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Free | Online

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To write and to sing: on the correspondence of text and sound

Seeing and reading are often thought to pull in contrary directions: as text is non-visual; vision is non-textual. This assumes both seeing and reading are cognitive operations that cut through the surface of inscription to recover meaning from behind. Yet reading handwriting involves an attention that enters into surface texture and goes along with its lines, rather than cutting through. Here, seeing and reading afford equivalent ways of watching-listening. To listen, as to watch, is to follow an unfolding movement. Both are modalities of observation. But where observation submits to movement, objectification stops it up. Attempts to combine observation and objectification founder on their contradiction, as attested in encounters both between deaf communities and mainstream institutions, and between Indigenous peoples and the forces of colonisation. Yet the charges levelled against the latter, of ocularcentrism and scriptism, signify not the prioritisation of eyesight and writing, but a cognitive style that withdraws the eye from the world even as it withdraws words from script. The same style divides song into components of verbal text and embodied practice. A body that is animate, however, sings its way productively into the world. Knowing by singing offers a way to enter into this productive process.


Tim Ingold, CBE, FBA, FRSE is Professor Emeritus of Social Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen. He has carried out fieldwork among Saami and Finnish people in Lapland, and has written on environment, technology and social organisation in the circumpolar North, on animals in human society, and on human ecology and evolutionary theory. His more recent work explores environmental perception and skilled practice. Ingold’s current interests lie on the interface between anthropology, archaeology, art and architecture. His recent books include The Perception of the Environment (2000), Lines (2007), Being Alive (2011), Making (2013), The Life of Lines (2015), Anthropology and/as Education (2018), Anthropology: Why it Matters (2018), Correspondences (2020) and Imagining For Real (2022). Ingold is a Fellow of the British Academy and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. In 2022 he was made a CBE for services to Anthropology.

What is ResearchWorks?

Guildhall School’s ResearchWorks is a programme of events centred around the School’s research activity, bringing together staff, students and guests of international standing. We run regular events throughout the term intended to share the innovative research findings of the School and its guests with students, staff and the public.