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Aldwyn Hogg Jr.
Aldwyn Hogg Jr., a fifth-year doctoral candidate in the Department of Music, poses for a portrait outside of Hill Hall. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Through his research, Ph.D. student Aldwyn Hogg Jr. studies with a variety of historical and primary sources of sound to demonstrate that no technology is neutral and free from the effect of power relations in society.

“I chose this topic because I am devoted to revealing the often subtle and taken-for-granted links between race, technology and power within this country,” said Hogg. “I listen to the Black sonic technopoetics of four technologies in four historical periods — the industrial washing machine system in the 1930s, the automobile in the 1930s and ’40s, nuclear weaponry in the 1940-’50s and the Apollo 11 mission to the moon in 1969 — in order to write novel histories of these technologies.”

Black sonic technopoetics employed within his research also include blues songs from Bessie Smith, swing and jazz tunes from Andy Kirk and spoken word pieces from Gil Scott-Heron.

Hogg also draws from various written sources to supplement his findings — from Black newspapers, such as the Chicago Defender, to memoirs and autobiographies from people, including jazz bandleader Duke Ellington. He even researches formerly classified documents like FBI surveillance records of Paul Robeson, a politically-active singer in the 1940s.

“I hope that my research ultimately accomplishes several things. First, I hope it adds to scholarship on race and technology that is committed to dispelling the illusion that technology is neutral,” Hogg said. “Second, I hope that my concept of Black sonic technopoetics widens the gamut of approaches to studying race, technology, music and sound in the United States. Third, I hope it can write Black people into histories of technologies in which they are otherwise absent or hidden.”

This feature was originally published on unc.edu as part of a photo series by Johnny Andrews.