How is listening a form of care and is it related to governance? The department sat down with Postdoctoral Fellow Michael Berman to answer these questions and more. In the interview, Berman delves further into his research — explaining how experiences in the field led him to apply the simple act of listening to something deeply meaningful on a global scale.
"My research focuses on the politics of listening as a form of care. Observing and engaging in acts of listening allows me to link broad questions about the nature of politics, relations, generality, and history to questions posed at the level of experience and interaction.
In my first research project, I worked with religious professionals in Japan who provided “care for the heart” for survivors of the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown. Listening to horror stories of the tsunami was deeply meaningful work, but it placed an emotional and financial strain on listeners, who were not able to proselytize or use “religious sounding language” when working with survivors. Listening and compassion bound religious professionals to a secular category of “religion” that exhausted religious people and institutions. That is, listening was an important aspect of the alienation of a category of religion from the actual work of religious professionals. In that sense and others, listening was a deeply political and historical act.
I am currently expanding upon themes developed in my first project to highlight ways that listening is central to governance. More specifically, I am engaged in research on world peace and on how the nation-state is formed in acts of listening for signs of trauma, aggression, and violence.
Over the course of my postdoc, I am looking forward to putting the final touches on my book manuscript, Heart of a Heartless World, and developing several articles that will contribute to discussions in linguistic and medical anthropology. I am excited to refine my work in the intellectually vibrant community here at Brown."