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Policing the FrontierAn Ethnography of Two Worlds in Niger$
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Mirco Göpfert

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501747212

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501747212.001.0001

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The Ear

The Ear

Listening to Noise, Hearing Cases

(p.49) Chapter 4 The Ear
Policing the Frontier

Mirco Göpfert

Cornell University Press

This chapter discusses the gendarmes' sense of hearing. Usually, the gendarmes' work began with what they heard people say, how these people told them what they had to say, how the gendarmes listened to them and tried to make sense of what they had just heard. Technically, the gendarmes were supposed to “hear” structure in what they were told; to make a distinction between civil and criminal matters, between felonies, misdemeanors, and minor offences. Their bureaucratically attuned ear, in other words, was supposed to “hear” order behind all the noise. Yet what the gendarmes' “vocational ear” was ultimately attuned to was anything but fixed and clear—among others because the gendarmes had little say in what people told them in the first place. In this frontier-condition, both the world and the senses undergo a process of mutual ordering—or attuning.

Keywords:   gendarmes, hearing, listening, civil cases, criminal cases, offences, bureaucracy, vocational ear, ordering, attuning

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