Atmospheric Noise

The Indefinite Urbanism of Los Angeles

Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: 21 illustrations Published: February 2021

Author: Marina Peterson

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Music > Sound Studies

In Atmospheric Noise, Marina Peterson traces entanglements of environmental noise, atmosphere, sense, and matter that cohere in and through encounters with airport noise since the 1960s. Exploring spaces shaped by noise around Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), she shows how noise is a way of attuning toward the atmospheric: through noise we learn to listen to the sky and imagine the permeability of bodies and matter, sensing and conceiving that which is diffuse, indefinite, vague, and unformed. In her account, the “atmospheric” encompasses the physicality of the ephemeral, dynamic assemblages of matter as well as a logic of indeterminacy. It is audible as well as visible, heard as much as breathed. Peterson develops a theory of “indefinite urbanism” to refer to marginalized spaces of the city where concrete meets sky, windows resonate with the whine of departing planes, and endangered butterflies live under flight paths. Offering a conceptualization of sound as immanent and non-objectified, she demonstrates ways in which noise is central to how we know, feel, and think atmospherically.


“An exemplary experiment in compositional thinking and writing, Atmospheric Noise buzzes with conceptual and methodological inventiveness. Through the style in which it deftly traces the uneven emergence and refraction of urban noise across archives, concepts, bodies, regulations, and experience, Marina Peterson's book brilliantly performs its own argument about the importance of an ethos of informed listening. Atmospheric Noise should be on the bookshelf of anyone interested in understanding and writing about the atmospheric conditions of worlds.” — Derek P. McCormack, author of Atmospheric Things: On the Allure of Elemental Envelopment

“Writing in and through the movements of people, butterflies, planes, and homes; the shifts in environmental discourse; and varied human-nonhuman entanglements, Marina Peterson brings us a story and a book that will resonate across fields for years to come. Original, compelling, and evocative.” — Nicole Starosielski, author of The Undersea Network


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Price: $25.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Marina Peterson is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin, author of Sound, Space, and the City: Civic Performance in Downtown Los Angeles, and coeditor of Between Matter and Method: Encounters in Anthropology and Art.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction  1
1. Aerial Attunements  19
2. Noise Annoys  45
3. Environmental Imaginaries  77
4. Murmurs: Experiments in Glitching  105
5. Vibrating Matter  129
6. Indefinite Urbanism  155
Notes  185
References  207
Index  231
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-1182-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-1070-8