The Carter G. Woodson Institute, U.Va.

The Carter G. Woodson Institute

for African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia


Petal's book project examines the role of sound in tactics of colonial governance and strategies of anticolonial resistance in the twentieth-century anglophone Caribbean. The manuscript analyzes the uses of noise abatement laws as furtive mechanisms for surveilling, disrupting, and criminalizing Afro-Caribbean peoples and and marking them as contaminants to both the environment and the body politic. Rooted in early colonial fears of black assembly and insurrection that occasioned measures such as drumming bans, twentieth century colonial authorities and local periodicals instead attached the racially coded language of “noise” to Afro-Caribbean peoples and cultural production in order to cast them as inimical to the body politic. Conversely, her book examines Afro-Caribbean women’s writing that embraces such “noises”--conversation, laughter, sound systems, traffic, and even the voices of the dead--against the grain of these laws and public discourses, reclaiming them as subversive grammars that are integral to decolonization.

First Name: 
Post-Doctoral Fellow (English)
Vanderbilt University
Dissertation Title: 
"Polluting the Soundscape: Noise Control, The Colonial Ear, and Afro-Caribbean Women’s Writing"