Auscultations | Occultations, Listening to the Occult

deadline for submissions: 
June 1, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Tuning Speculation VI
contact email: 


Due June 1, 2018

Tuning Speculation VI: Auscultations | Occultations, Listening to the Occult

Keynote Speakers: Jayna Brown (Pratt) and Joyelle McSweeney (Notre Dame) 

November 2 - 4 2018 at The Back Door, 207 S. College Ave, Bloomington IN 47404

Organized by David Cecchetto (York University),  Marc Couroux (York University), Eldritch Priest (Simon Fraser University), Ted Hiebert (University of Washington Bothell) and Rebekah Sheldon (Indiana University)

“Auscultations | Occultations, Listening to the Occult” is the 6th Tuning Speculation conference, an annual interdisciplinary conference dedicated to bringing insights from speculative sound studies to bear on critical questions about contemporary media ecologies. Now in its fifth year, this gathering has emerged as an important locus of sound as a transdisciplinary subject. Not only does sound offer new conceptual and methodological possibilities, it demands close study because of its role in the many media through which we live our lives. Past speakers have approached these topics through a broad range of provocative presentations centered on data surveillance and biometrics (Katherine Behar), afro-futurities and modes of decolonizing temporality (Rasheedah Philips), and wearable cameras as a form of ecological practice (Natasha Myers)--among others topics and speakers! While the conferences are intimate in size, they are global in scope and have featured artists and scholars from seven countries.

This year Tuning Speculation explores the occult dimensions of sound. Sound has long been important as a metaphoric and material resource in occult sciences in figures like the Aeolian harp and technologies like spirit recordings. Sound also plays a significant role in the new materialisms via the vibratory dimensions attributed to the virtual by Gilles Deleuze and his followers. Recent works like Joshua Ramey’s The Hermetic Deleuze attune to the presence of sonic ontologies in both occult sciences and speculative philosophy.

Alongside these philosophical inquiries, the 21st century has also seen an efflorescence in fictional, filmic, musical, and critical explorations of the alter-modern hermeneutics of occulted knowledge systems and other-world-making practices, many of which express as or through sound, music, and the vibratory, especially in the sonic dimensions of ritual. In Afro-futurism and Native futurisms, in feminist and queer rewritings of the sciences, and in the revisionary environmental uncanny of the New Weird, there emerges an occult hermeneutic for the age of the Anthropocene. Yet the occult inheritance is a thorny one. From the meme magicians of the alt-right to the rise of pagan white supremacy, the occult is resurgent in contemporary anti-Enlightenment politics of racial hierarchy. These threads appeared in the later 20th century in the form of underground music cultures, skinhead punks, apocalyptic folk and death metal subcultures most notably, but they have long accompanied occult inquiry.

Tuning Speculation VI: Auscultations | Occultations, Listening to the Occult invites papers that think about either side of this binary but especially welcomes work that will help explore, explain, or interrogate their tangency and the contemporary conditions that give rise to them. What virtual potentialities inhere in esoteric, subjugated, or untimely knowledges? What utopian possibilities do they bring to bear on contemporary ecological crises? What risks attend these practices of knowing and living? How do we situate a posthumanist critique of the Enlightenment now that its dismantlement seems descriptive of social reality? What is the role of digital cultures in these various movements, especially in the figure of the troll and in light of Russian disinformation campaigns? What are the practical politics of pessimism, nihilism, digital refusal, and other forms of nay-saying? Potential topics include but are not limited to: speculative nihilism, the dark enlightenment, accelerationism and xeno-feminism, the new weird, Afro-futurism, indigenous futurisms, object oriented feminism, feminist and queer science studies, queer of color critique, posthumanism, wicca, chaos magic, thelema, spiritualism and ecto-poetics, and children’s fantasy.

Please send an abstract (maximum 250 words) and a brief biographical sketch (150 words maximum) to by 1 June 2018.  Notification of acceptance will be given in early August.

A note on the space: In keeping with our longstanding commitment to inclusivity, the workshop will be held at The Back Door, a local dancehall and queer community space. While The Back Door is a bar, the bar itself will not be operating during any of the academic events.