Doing things with voices

Colombian ‘kidnap radio’ and the sound of God

in Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale
Stephen Pax Leonard Moscow State Linguistic University

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Some hostages of the FARC held in the Colombian Amazon spoke of how they believed a certain radio voice could result in an action. For over 20 years, every Saturday night a radio programme broadcast messages from the hostages’ families and loved ones. A small number of these captives recycled the prophetic radio voice in a dialogic interaction with prayer in their inner speech, and this resulted in what they believed to be the voice of God. By assigning them new identities, the hostages were through a process of performative listening ‘doing things’ with voices in the Austinian sense. This article takes Austin’s work in a new direction by exploring the primary performative function of voice. By analysing localised ideologies of voice through the complex discourse of prisoners’ reflexive self‐analyses, it adds the dimension of vocality to speech act theory. Research with Colombian hostages shows that inner voice can be used to invoke linguistic representations of God in the absence of any tuition.

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