Exploring Sound and Noise in the Urban Environment


Justice Studies

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



This chapter explores sound and noise in the urban environment. While sounds may be a feature of the urban environment – and often a defining feature – the line between what constitutes ‘sound’ and ‘noise’ is subjective. Who decides, and where/when governance and regulation of ‘sound’ in the name of ‘noise’ control is exercised, is often a reflection of power, prestige and privilege. We begin by noting how city dwellers are both the creators of sound and the victims of noise pollution, before turning to the potentially adverse impacts of excessive sound – noise – on human health and the environment. From here, we discuss concerns about noise and social/racial inequalities and then turn to the exercise of ‘municipal power’ in the regulation of sound (as noise). This leads us to illustrate how sound can serve as an agonist for police action – as an essential weapon in the arsenal of police – but that sound and noise are also marshalled in resistance to police power. We conclude by considering the role that sound and noise (or lack thereof) might play in ‘eco cities’ and ‘smart cities’.

Book Title

Harm and Disorder in the Urban Space