Date of Award

2022

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Anthropology

First Advisor

Timothy Rommen

Second Advisor

Kristina Lyons

Abstract

This dissertation examines noise as a problem of shared urban life. In the context of Mexico City, often described as one of the world’s loudest metropolitan areas, I ask how residents and government interact around noise: how do government actors and city residents define, evaluate, and attempt to manage sound? Which and whose sounds are problematized as noise and in what contexts? How do anxieties about social difference, urban space, and rights to inhabit and shape the city motivate efforts to mitigate noise? I focus on “noise-hearers” in the city’s central Cuauhtémoc district where noise complaints and conflicts cluster to consider how noise conflicts emerge in situations of neighborhood change. This study is rooted in the specifics of Mexico City’s sound-world(s) but engages with global sound studies literature and frames noise as an important and broadly relevant urban question.

Using ethnographic methods, analysis of government documents and social media posts, as well as a quantitative and qualitative analysis of noise complaint data, my project moves between neighborhood spaces and government institutions. I develop the idea of sonic management to examine activities individuals or groups take to control sound, including residents and institutional actors. I find that efforts to control sound and failures to do so both shape urban social exclusion. Looking at noise complaints and disputes among middle-class social groups, I contribute to scholarship on neighborhood change in Latin America, rights to the city discourses, and sensory experiences of gentrification. Analyzing government processes for mitigating noise, I examine how bureaucratic procedures shape interactions between citizens and government, and frame potentially collective problems as individual grievances. My project highlights noise as a social and political question but in concluding I analyze available strategies to manage urban sound and noise as a public health, social and environmental justice, and quality of life issue.

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Available to all on Saturday, July 05, 2025

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