In the article Hoegaerts discusses the entry of Asian, African and Caribbean students in British universities at the end of the 19th century, as seen through the sources available from the Cambridge Union.
Public speeches made by these ‘other’ students were reported and discussed in the Cambridge Review and the student journal the Granta. Hoegaerts shows that otherness was often highlighted even in the case where the speaker was highly skillful in the English language, social conventions and rhetoric. Hoegaerts argues that these affections of difference took shape in the ears of the audience: variations from the ‘traditional’ speaker’s delivery were discussed in terms of acoustics rather than as political or cultural issues.
The fact that it was always a voice that carried public speech, an audible ‘something’ to which listeners could not simply close their ears, always issued from a particular body, is therefore important. The vehicle itself, because it was a visceral, living, embodied ‘something’ was not innocent of political and cultural balances of power. Whatever it ‘carried’ with it – be it skill, knowledge or opinion – was always already coloured by this unavoidable, gendered, ethnicized, classed physicality.
The article is openly available on the website of Ennen ja nyt.