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Sounding the Limits of LifeEssays in the Anthropology of Biology and Beyond$
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Stefan Helmreich

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780691164809

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691164809.001.0001

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Seashell Sound

Seashell Sound

(p.155) Chapter 1 2 Seashell Sound
Sounding the Limits of Life

Stefan Helmreich

Sophia Roosth

Michele Friedner

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines what sounds are generated from seashells. In his 1915 Book of Wonders, popular science writer Rudolph Bodmer explains that “the sounds we hear when we hold a sea shell to the ear are not really the sound of the sea waves. We have come to imagine that they are because they sound like the waves of the sea, and knowledge that the shell originally came from the sea helps us to this conclusion very easily.” Both sea and seashell sounds were generated by waves. This chapter suggests that the changing ratios of ocean, air, and blood in seashell-sound accountings track a European–Atlantic–American ethno-conchology, one that unrolls from Romantic enthrallment toward a double-edged modernity that uses the language of science to disenchant at one moment and then reenchant at another.

Keywords:   seashells, Rudolph Bodmer, seashell sound, ethno-conchology, modernity, popular science

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