Sound Excavations: Exploring Audio's Unique Power to Excavate and Reconstruct Erased, Lost and Hidden LGBT Pasts

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


I recently produced and performed a spoken word/audio documentary hybrid at the HearSay International Sound Festival in Limerick, Ireland. The aim of the piece was to revisit, evoke and recreate/represent a lost history – that of my gay childhood a conservative village, Ballymahon, in the Irish midlands in the heady political days of the 1980s.

Since that time, Ireland’s social mores have changed radically. In villages like Ballymahon today – once places of queer fear and secrecy – LGBT people can open and full lives.

While the social change is very welcome, it also left me feeling strangely bereft…

The bigotry and oppressive cultural forces that caused the struggle, loneliness and fear of my childhood have all but disappeared. That hostile paradigm which created and held my childhood experience is gone. In today’s bright, new, progressive Ireland, finding a way back to my sombre childhood is increasingly difficult.

My spoken word/audio documentary performance was an act of recuperation and celebration of that occluded past.

Drawing on excepts and findings from that performance and on scholarly research into imagined communities; psycho-geographies; queer archiving; the politics of narrative reconstruction; and critical literature on audio documentary, I propose a paper on the power and potential of the audio form in the resurrection and (re)presentation of lost queer pasts.

I will examine ways in which audio can be used to convey remembered subjectivities in a way that is universally accessible; how audio can be used to materialise a (queer) past devoid of archival or documentary evidence; and how, through sound techniques, the personal political and the Body Politics can intermingle and collide all within the register of the memoir.

Ultimately, the paper will signal how these strategies to excavate lost queer pasts can be used by other communities to resurrect similarly lost or occluded pasts.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sep 2021
EventOUTing the Past -
Duration: 09 Sep 202110 Sep 2021


ConferenceOUTing the Past
Internet address


  • LGBT+
  • Sound
  • memory
  • Media
  • representation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • History
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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