P09
Recalling the unspeakable: interviewers facing silence

Convenors:
Elisabeth Anstett (CNRS)
Location:
Stranmillis Conference Hall
Start time:
16 April, 2010 at 14:30
Session slots:
1

Short abstract:

When dealing with mass violence, ethnographers need to hold simultaneously the witness's difficulty to speak, and various prolific academic discourses. Between over-interpretation and end of speech, what value or meaning do anthropologists then confer to silence?

Long abstract:

Silence has always represented a breaking point in interview, revealing its limits or its end. Still, anthropological works carried out on contemporary mass violence - such as wars, genocides, massacres, concentration camps-, have to deal with various forms of "spoken" and "unspoken" silences: hesitations, metaphors, lapsus linguae, pauses, disruptions or tears. These silences offer to the anthropologist a unique access to an intimate understanding and knowledge of violence, the one of victims, bystanders or perpetrators. Simultaneously, interviewer bear in mind another kind of knowledge on mass violence, the scholar one, produced through an abundant academic discourse by historians, lawyers or psychiatrists for example. Together, silences of the interviewee, questions of the anthropologists (even if untold) and academic discourses form a kind of heuristic 'dynamic trio' trapped between the risk of not telling (stay silent), and the one of telling too much (over interpret). Aiming to explore practical, methodological and theoretical uses of silence in anthropology of mass violence, this panel intends to show potentialities and dynamics of works carried out through interview on violent fields.