Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Why are you so loud?

“Growing up in working-class neighborhoods unfettered by Victorian notions of proper forms of speaking, we competed with others in our class to be heard. A sure-fire formula for success was volume, frequency, and ostentatiousness in speech. In the middle-class environment of the university, such tactics are frowned upon as wholly inappropriate. Consequently, we both daily struggle with conforming our voices to the dictates of appropriate speech while at the same time holding true to our backgrounds.”
--Stephen Muzzatti and Vincent Samarco “Reflections From the Wrong Side of the Tracks: Class, Identity, and the Working-Class Experience in Academe

“Why are you so loud?”

While you might think the question has always been asked of me, I was never aware of the fact that I spoke too loudly until I came to college. Entering graduate school has only increased the frequency with which I am asked this question.

Until recently, I had always tried to answer this question in the individualistic, medicalized, and hegmonically bourgeois acceptable form that I so despise being offered in response to any other question.

The story actually fits the individualistic mode quite well—I was born temporarily deaf and have had problems with my ears all my life, notably when I was 8 and a bad sinus infection left my left ear drum shattered and destroyed my eustachian tube, which makes it very difficult for me to hear myself. Not to mention a long career in the louder musics, which while it may not have done a great deal of damage, has certainly not helped my hearing situation.

However, only upon reading my old friend Muzzatti’s account of growing up in a working-class neighborhood (and the education system you enter because of your neighborhood) did I finally apply the sociological training I'm wasting my life on to my own situation. While I'm sure my individual medical history helps explain my high-volume speech, it doesn't explain my "aggressive" speaking style.

Of course, "aggressive" is again the label applied by those educated in nicer schools, where everyone politely waits their turn to be called on, and you don't have to have the windows open with traffic and construction going on 15 feet away because you have air conditioning to deal with the heat, and you don't have to deal with the cacophony of students being constantly disciplined, etc.

So I guess one could argue I'm just a product of an upbringing that not many folks in higher academia share. Or I'm just a boorish ass. They're both plausible.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Hey guy. Just wanted to let you know that I've subscribed to your blog feed. Enjoying your thoughts in research class. :)

By the way, I would enjoy visiting about upbringing and higher education. I grew up in a sometimes poor family, a dairy farming family in central Minnesota. Because of fluctuations in the pricing of milk, some years were good, but mostly they weren't so good.