Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Attitudes, Affects & Alliances in Scholarship (Part 3): Silence


Sukshma Vedere


Silence is my zone of comfort. Having grown up in a conservative family, where talking to the opposite sex made elders shake their heads in disapproval, going to parties was denied with a firm “NO”, and watching the television was considered “a waste of time”, I grew up to be an anti-social geek with books as friends and silence as companion. 

I hated drawing attention and always preferred to remain in the background of any social events/gathering. I loved to be unnoticed! The back bench in class was always mine, from where I tried to evade the teacher’s questioning eyes. Maintaining distance from people made me feel secure. Few ever knew what was on my mind, I was either considered mysterious or dull by peers.


However, from the moment that I decided that I wanted to focus on academics and saw the need to acquire teaching skills to improve my chances of employment, my silent bubble burst. It took me a lot of effort to face the classroom, becoming the object of attention as a teacher. 

I often wondered why academics was always associated with rhetoric and wished it had been otherwise. Why is vocal language the normative means of communication? Can’t people communicate in silence? -were some of the questions which intrigued me at that time. Some of my friends used to joke saying that I ought to become a teacher for the vocally challenged/dumb/muted.

In retrospect, I find it ironical that I have gained proficiency in several languages/ means of communication and prefer silence to rhetoric. I believe that meaning is fluid in a space of silence and that orality shatters the “subjunctive possibilities” of meaning by making things explicit. Speech is a selective device that overlooks subtle experiences to highlight a dominant experience and validate it as reality.


In silence, my identity is fluid, no one knows me or judges me, not even myself. I like it that way. 

In The History of Sexuality Foucault explains:

"Silence itself—the things one declines to say, or is forbidden to name, the discretion that is required between different speakers—is less the absolute limit of discourse, the other side from which it is separated by a strict boundary, than an element that functions alongside the things said, with them and in relation to them within over-all strategies.... There is not one but many silences, and they are an integral part of the strategies that underlie and permeate discourses."

In my research, I am interested in discourses of silence, and unhistorical narratives which reveal experiences which have gone unrecorded in the span of history. It is time to take a look at how silences shape reality and construct experiences, how silences contain fluid identities and affects which get trapped in the rhetoric of language when made explicit. 


Listen via Podcast to
the M.A.T.C.H. Round-Table 
"Attitudes, Affects & Alliances 
in Scholarship"
15 February 2013

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