Bryce Peake examines aural dimensions of debate over Confederate flag

Bryce Peake, a new assistant professor of media and communication studies, recently published an ethnographic study he conducted with a colleague at Central Washington University on the September pro-Confederate flag rally in Washington, D.C. The article “Viral Landscapes in the Public Square: the Confederate Flag visits the U.S. Capitol,” was published on the Centre for Imaginative Ethnography’s website.

Bryce PeakeAs part of the study, Peake and his colleague Mark Auslander spent time interviewing participants on both sides of the protests and edited the audio interviews down to a five minute sequence of overlapping voices: “Reviewing the audio, we noted that it is often difficult to tease out which side is being represented in speeches or interviews, without access to the visual framing devices of flags and protest signs. For all their deep political divides, the competing participants share a deep distrust of the state, and are all profoundly critical of mainstream representations of American history,” they wrote.

Further analyzing the audio they collected, the authors noted that “the pro-Confederate demonstrators understand themselves as coming to the nation’s capital and its house of government to petition for redress. In contrast, the anti-flag forces aren’t framing things in national terms as such. For them, they are defending their city against outsiders. ‘Leave our city. Take that flag and run! Take your evil hatred and go home!'”

Peake hopes the audioscape will be a resource for classroom discussions about readings on political theory and democratic dialog. Peake specializes in international communication, research methodologies, gender politics, and science and technology studies. Read more about his work on the media and communication studies department website.