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Panel 40. (Dis)encounters around noise: how does noise influence conflict, cohesion and the (re)production of inequalities in urban spaces of the Global North and South?


  • Caroline Stamm (Instituto de Estudios Urbanos y Territoriales, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile).
  • Ricardo Fuentealba (Instituto de Ciencias Sociales, Universidad de O’Higgins)


Noise, despite being an important urban problem today, has been scantly studied by urban sociology and urban studies in general. The growth pattern of cities, the processes of densification and verticalisation, and motorisation have increased noise pollution, defined by the WHO as any sound above 65 dB. Levels of exposure to environmental noise affect people’s health (WHO, 2011), but also their quality of life (Ureta, 2007). Noise has consequences on the well-being of individuals, generates conflicts at neighbourhood, local and metropolitan levels, and influences different dimensions of social cohesion in urban spaces such as sociability, trust and attachment to place. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the noise problem has been characterised by a new paradox, with changes in the acoustic landscape that allow, for example, nature noises to be heard again in cities, while at the same time, an increase in noise complaints during and after the pandemic.

However, noise exposure levels differ according to territories and their characteristics. More socio-economically, ethnically and racially vulnerable communities experience greater noise exposure, leading to what has been termed “sonic injustice” (Collins et al., 2020). Furthermore, the level of annoyance towards noise is related not only to acoustic factors, but also to factors such as noise sensitivity and attitude towards the noise source, and other factors such as satisfaction with the neighbourhood, length of residence in the neighbourhood, age or gender (Job, 1988). Noise in its various social dimensions entails collective dynamics associated with practices, conflicts and affects that constitute different ways of inhabiting cities and exercising citizenship (Clifford Rosenberg, 2016; Lewis, 2020). Approaching the acoustic dimension of urbanisation therefore allows us to understand a wide range of encounters and misunderstandings between urban inhabitants, spatialities, institutions and even dynamics of urban development.

The aim of this panel is to analyse how noise influences conflicts, cohesion and the (re)production of socio-spatial inequalities, and what are the consequences on urban life. How do noise inequalities translate into different spaces of cities in the Global North and South? How do inhabitants in their diversity mobilise individually and collectively through noise? What consequences does noise have on urban spaces at different scales, considering, among others, the (re)production of inequalities and social cohesion?

Among other topics, we expect papers to address:

  • Case studies on different sources of noise and forms of mobilisation, including anti- noise groups, at different
  • Studies presenting empirical work from cities in the global North and South, to generate comparative
  • Theoretical approaches and perspectives on noise injustices
  • Reflections and methodological explorations on the study of noise in cities.

Centro de Estudios de Conflicto y Cohesión Social.

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