The CAETS Cross-Cultural Hearing Tests SEBASTIAN KLOTZ

The Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits (CAETS), led by zoologist and anthropologist Alfred C. Haddon, was a key endeavor in British anthropology’s formative years. This chapter discusses its reports from 1901 and 1935, drawing on critical epistemologies of hearing to explore the expedition’s cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary framework. Before the rise of ethnomusicology proper, testing hearing became an important way of mediating translations from the laboratory to the field, from psychology to anthropology, from static stimuli to adaptive learning. Hearing tests in the Torres Straits promised easy access to a vital human capacity, but they proved inconclusive—no persuasive link could be drawn between hearing acuity and intelligence, undermining attempts to locate “savagery” and consolidate cultural difference. The CAETS researchers were unable to bridge the growing divide between reflexive anthropologies and the logic of cultures of measurement. Their hearing tests exposed a problematic relationship that still permeates the discipline today.

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Myers, Charles, and W. McDougall. 1903. “Reports Of The Cambridge Anthropological Expedition To Torres Straits”. Cambridge: C. J. Clay and Sons.