Bleed a little louder: Sound, silence and music torture

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract / Description of output

Music, like medicine, can be used to damage as well as to heal, and there is a long history linking music with punishment rituals, and torture. However, the common tendency to think about violence and injury in terms of physical force and visible scars means that impacts of psychological and social violence have often been downplayed, even silenced. The emphasis on physicality also results in erroneous ideas about music torture: for example, the assumption that the music used must be intensely physical, ergo extremely loud. Studying the impacts of non-physical violence present difficulties for the historian, not least given changes in how injury and illness are discussed and perceived. However, as nineteenth-century debates around flogging demonstrate, historical actors sometimes show a surprisingly acute awareness of the medical impacts of psychological violence. This essay ultimately argues that giving voice to survivors of these forms of violence is imperative for justice and healing, and that historians are well placed to contribute to this.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-29
Number of pages15
JournalVirus: Beiträge zur Sozialgeschichte der Medizin
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • music
  • torture
  • Britain
  • United States of America
  • 19th-21st centuries


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