Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for the Anthropology of Religion
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Resilience
Secondary Theme: Social movements
Notoriously difficult to interpret, sociocultural silences can spring from complex agencies, multivocal webs of meaning, and generative ambiguities. Much recent anthropology on silence explores its relationship to trauma (e.g., Das 2007). This panel instead expands the topic to address varieties of silence that include intentional indeterminacies, what Michael Jackson (2013) called “the uncertainty principle,” which bring the creative power of ambiguity into the play of diverse lifeworlds. Such silences are dynamic, prompting both cultural actors and ethnographers to participate in unknown and unknowable fields of generative power. Whether the ethnographic contexts are the intentional American Christian monastic silences that serve to unhinge ordinary perception through the exploration of communal inner space, new possibilities expressed in Chinese hauntings and ritual silences in response to enforced urban displacement, or persistent ethnographic attempts at understanding the juncture of silences and sounds in a Ghanaian ritual sonic habitat, sociocultural silences can act as fruitful catalysts for renewal and reconfiguration of known worlds.
Das, Veena. 2007. Life and Words: Violence and the Descent into the Ordinary. Berkeley: University of California Press
Jackson, Michael. 2013. Lifeworlds: Essays in Existential Anthropology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.