1st Edition

Tracing Silences Towards an Anthropology of the Unspoken and Unspeakable

Edited By Ana Dragojlovic, Annemarie Samuels Copyright 2023

    Silence is crucial to our social world. Responding to the growing scholarly interest in social sciences and humanities for more in-depth engagements with social silence, this book explores what it means to trace silences and to include traces of silences in our scholarly representations.

    What qualifies as silence, and how does it relate to articulation, to voice, visibility and representation? How can silences be sensed and experienced viscerally as well as narratively? And how do we think with and interpret silences in the face of potential unknowability? Grounded in ethnographic research in the Netherlands, Israel, Turkey, China, and Indonesia, the chapters all contribute to a theorization of silence that embraces multivocality, unintelligibility and uncertainty of interpretation. As a collection of cutting-edge scholarly work at the intersection of anthropology and history, Tracing Silences argues for an in-depth engagement with the unspeakable and unspoken, through a range of modes and methods, and in the historical, social, and political ways in which they emerge and are enacted in the particularities of people’s lives.

    This book will be of interest to scholars and students of history, anthropology, sociology, political science and archival studies. The chapters in this book were originally published as a special issue of History and Anthropology.

    Introduction—Tracing silences: Towards an anthropology of the unspoken and unspeakable

    Ana Dragojlovic and Annemarie Samuels

    1. Practising affect for haunted speakability: Triggering trauma through an interactive art project

    Ana Dragojlovic

    2. Emancipatory voice and the recursivity of authentic silence: Holocaust descendant accounts of the dialectic between silence and voice

    Carol A. Kidron

    3. ‘Devious silence’: Refugee art, memory activism, and the unspeakability of loss among Syrians in Turkey

    Evropi Chatzipanagiotidou and Fiona Murphy

    4. Respecting silence: Longing, rhythm, and Chinese temples in an age of bulldozers

    Robert P. Weller

    5. Strategies of silence in an age of transparency: Navigating HIV and visibility in Aceh, Indonesia

    Annemarie Samuels

    Afterword: Haunted histories and the silences of everyday life

    Byron J. Good


    Ana Dragojlovic is Associate Professor in Gender Studies at the University of Melbourne, Australia. She works at the intersection of feminist, queer, postcolonial and affect theory and is the author of Beyond Bali: Subaltern Citizens and Post-Colonial Intimacy (2016), co-author of Bodies and Suffering: Emotions and Relations of Care (Routledge, 2018, with Alex Broom), and co-editor of Gender, Violence, Power: Indonesia Across Time and Space (Routledge, 2020, with Kate McGregor and Hannah Loney).

    Annemarie Samuels is Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology at Leiden University. Her research focuses on narrative, silence, HIV/AIDS, end-of-life care, and disaster in Indonesia. She is the author of After the Tsunami: Disaster Narratives and the Remaking of Everyday Life in Aceh (2019) and co-editor of Islam and the Limits of the State: Reconfigurations of Practice, Community, and Authority in Contemporary Aceh (2016, with R. Michael Feener and David Kloos).