This article examines the role of the voice in practices of representation in nineteenth-century parliament. It asks how textual representations of vocal practices of political representation can be mobilized for the histories of politics and representation, and how such an enquiry can complicate our understanding of representation as a multifarious practice organized around speech. The article takes a particular case as its point of departure: that of the different Assemblées of nineteenth-century France, its vocal performances and the many practices of transcription, reporting and comment, such as those produced by an increasingly professional class of stenographers, journalists and satirists. Tracing the various ways in which representatives ventriloquized others, and were ventriloquized by different audiences and commentators, it draws attention to the acoustic aspects of parliamentary speech, and of the concept of representation itself. We focus on the representative quality of political vocality itself and also consider the practice of representing political speeches on paper (e.g. as transcripts or by journalists). Finally, and most importantly, we reflect on how the use of such representations could make the MP’s voice present even where his body was not. Thinking about the French case in a wide transnational context, we argue that including extra-linguistic aspects of speech in our analyses of oratory might draw attention to the embodied practices that served to make, imagine or sometimes disrupt beliefs about national belonging ‐ thus delving into understandings of trustworthiness and political effectiveness beyond the particular national framework. Consequently, thinking about speech with and as sound allows us to think beyond the nation or national institutions when examining the practice of modern politics, its development and the continued importance of ventriloquial imaginations and materialities in political speech.
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