EASA2018: Staying, Moving, Settling

(P088)
Silences of/and mobility: towards an anthropology of the unspoken and unspeakable
Location Aula Magna-Mimer
Date and Start Time 16 Aug, 2018 at 09:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Annemarie Samuels (Leiden University) email
  • Ana Dragojlovic (University of Melbourne) email

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Short abstract

Building on recent work in the anthropology of silence that recognizes that silences are multivocal and actively present in social life, this panel explores theoretical, methodological and ethical questions relating to the roles of silences in experiences of movement and migration.

Long abstract

In recent years, the anthropology of silence has begun to address a range of questions that recognize silences as presences rather than absences in social life (e.g., Kidron 2009). Silences may be the result of hauntings that signal experiences too dangerous or painful to articulate. They may also be strategic, respectful, and culturally valued. Recognizing that silences are multivocal and actively present in social life, in this panel we explore theoretical, methodological and ethical questions relating to the roles of silences in experiences of movement and migration - including experiences of emigration/immigration, forced displacement and evacuation, rural/urban movement, marriage mobility and temporary labor migration. In what ways can silences be political? What are the affective forces of silence? When and how might migrants' silences be a form of agency? At the limits of narrative, how might migrants find other ways to articulate shared and personal elements of experiences of movement - for example, through music, art, embodied gestures, or rituals? What kind of silences may be heard within "a story of departures without homecoming" (Steedly 2013), and what different ways of listening may anthropologists need in order to attend to such silences? What are the ethical implications of anthropologists' attempts to "salvage silence from disappearance" (Weller 2017), and how might anthropologists manage the dangers and limits of knowing and writing in a politically sensitive field? We invite contributions that combine ethnography and theory, and that aim to expand the anthropological understanding of the unspeakable and unspoken.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Loss, Silence and Mimesis: conceptualising the aesthetics of refugee art

Authors: Evropi Chatzipanagiotidou (Queen's University Belfast) email
Fiona Murphy (Queens University Belfast ) email
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Short abstract

Drawing on material from recent fieldwork with Syrian refugees in Istanbul, we examine potential complementarities between arts and ethnography in the effort to represent loss that is unspeakable and unspoken, comprised of silences, voids, absences and abandonment.

Long abstract

Displacement is intrinsically linked to and understood through multiple categories of vast loss -human, economic, social, cultural and spatial. Anthropologists are concerned with the potentialities and limitations of our disciplinary tools and ethical mandates to document and represent such loss, especially when it is not and cannot be articulated in narrative forms. Drawing on material from recent fieldwork with Syrian refugees in Istanbul, we examine potential complementarities between arts and ethnography in the effort to represent loss that is unspeakable and unspoken, comprised of silences, voids, absences and abandonment. To do so, we focus critically on 'mimicking' as a process of simultaneously creating empathy and producing alterity (Taussig 1992), and as a central feature of both artistic re-enactment and participant observation. We examine art works of loss and displacement by refugees and other artists as spaces for ethical and epistemological deliberation of direct relevance for anthropological knowledge. Such approach focuses on the affective and the non-verbal, and helps us move away from a methodological primacy of the narrative that often leads to essentialising and fetishizing of refugee 'voices', further silencing and disempowerment. At the same time, we acknowledge the risks of aesthetising loss, silence and invisibility. The paper argues that an 'anthropology of silence and loss' in the context of displacement does not aim to resolve dilemmas around representation, experience and aesthetics, but to highlight further ethical, political and methodological complexities in documenting absence.

The Un-speakable Shame: Migrant Husbands, Racialisation, and Marginality of Balinese Men in the Netherlands

Author: Ana Dragojlovic (University of Melbourne) email
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Short abstract

Drawing on ethnographic research with Balinese 'migrant husbands' in the Netherlands, this article explores the switching continuum of spoken and unspeakable, and how they relate to mobility regimes, moral panic about migrant men, and the production of good citizenship.

Long abstract

Anthropologists and scholars in related fields have argued that silence, rather than being an absence, is a multiple and embodied presence that haunts language and is an integral part of discursive formation (Derrida 1978, Kidron 2009, Foucault 1978). Yet, acknowledging the complexity of silence is not enough. Drawing on long-term ethnographic research with Balinese men who migrated to the Netherlands after marrying a Dutch national (woman or man), this article explores the switching continuum of spoken and unspeakable, and how they relate to mobility regimes, moral panic about migrant men, and the production of good citizenship. Which themes are understood among the men to be unspoken and unspeakable? How are these silences enacted, experienced and understood, and what are the affective atmospheres they can produce? In contrast, why do these men talk extensively about their engagement in affective and care labour, which stands in opposition to traditional values ascribed to masculinity in Bali, and when and how do they do so?

A Place for Care: Care, Citizenship and Boundary work in stillborn Burial in Israel

Author: Shvat Eilat (Tel Aviv University) email
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Short abstract

keywords: Ethics of care, Citizenship, Body Politics, Motherhood, Boundary work.

Long abstract

Care is usually seen as a practice or action directed towards a living being or a group of people. When there is a demand for state's care and protection, we tend to think about welfare systems or different categories of citizens or "non- citizens". But what happens when the state doesn't "care" for a certain category of being? And how can these categories be perceived within state logic on the one hand, and challenged by the "border beings" they have created on the other hand?

In my research, I interviewed a group of Jewish-Israeli women whose stillborns were buried in an unmarked mass grave. These women appealed to the District Court, demanding that the court denounces mass burial and will recognize the wrongs the mothers have suffered. I show how these mothers try to translocate state boundaries around "Body politic" categories of motherhood and citizenship. This is done within boundary work that makes use of the Israeli- Jewish state conceptions around honored burial, death hierarchies, "Kinship Ideologies" and the right to citizenship. These mothers position their claim deep within the Israeli- Jewish state logic of bodies worth of respect and honor. Making a place for their stillborns, and themselves as their mothers, is done by positioning the desired categories as integral to the Jewish- Israeli state. Through forms of suffering concerning the mass grave that the mothers present in their words, I will show how care can be reconstructed in places where it's primary means not always exist.

Silence as Affective Action: Cases from a Vietnamese Psychiatric Outpatient Clinic

Author: Edda Heyken (Freie Universität Berlin) email
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Short abstract

This paper discusses silence as affective action among elderly Vietnamese refugees. Drawing from ethnographic research in and beyond a psychiatric outpatient clinic, I portray when and why actors feel dis- or empowered when silencing their experiences of displacement, loss, and vulnerability.

Long abstract

Drawing on psychological anthropological research with elderly Vietnamese refugees in and beyond a psychiatric outpatient clinic in Berlin, I discuss a discursive gap that silences the experiences of displacement and that becomes jeopardized by embodied memories. According to Confucian values that my interlocutors adhere to, silence serves to satisfy social norms and to promote social harmony; it is thus conceptualized as action rather than inaction. Silence as collectively shared protective strategy refers back to habituated practices acquired to cope with loss and grief. Thus, it empowers actors as it enables them to regulate negative emotions and memories that are believed to be too harmful to be articulated. In the light of traumatic experiences of an unspeakable past, silencing conveys both an affective force and a potential danger for their well-being. This paper portrays the potentials as well as the limits of silencing for actors who, unintentionally and due to various reasons, drop out of the mode of silencing and increasingly experience feelings of disempowerment, insecurity, intensifying social isolation. I observed that the imposed silence becomes contested by seemingly minor sensual or non-/verbal aspects that dissociate actors to experience emotional crises as an entanglement of past and present influences. The affective presence of silence points to a tension between the desire to silence the unspoken and the affective presence this action provokes. Through psychotherapeutic intervention, different perspectives to deconstruct a hardened behavior pattern of silencing offer new ways of negotiating alternative forms of agency and seeking harmony.

Language, dislocation, and interpretation: Afghan migrants in England

Author: Nichola Khan (University of Brighton) email
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Short abstract

Through conjunctions of silence, migration and mobility, the paper follows Afghan migrants' travels in England. It queries contradictory and idiosyncratic forms of migrant life, its representation in colonial and hegemonic discourse, and the sense of dislocation, duality, and effacement produced.

Long abstract

The paper reflects on what it is to be Afghan, Pashtun, Muslim and a migrant in the contemporary world. Through conjunctions of silence, migration and mobility, it draws on research with Afghan migrants in England, following their inexorable movement from refugee sons, to becoming remitting migrants, citizens, and household heads themselves. These temporal shifts are represented in terms of the values of freedom and autonomy, but also fractured by forms of ongoing violence which, repressed in everyday social and political life, return as various configurations of silence. First, disrupting the colonial ethnographer's gaze on Afghanistan, the paper returns to questions about the gap between contradictory and idiosyncratic forms of migrant life, its representation in hegemonic and academic discourse, and the sense of dislocation, duality and effacement this produces in migrant' lives. Next, it explores deep personal predicaments facing those who cease to function, or in mobility terms to 'move'. These reveal attempts to re-pace, stop, and reshape the long-term burdens of migrant labour that play out in different, complex ways in everyday life centered on movement and mobility. Third, it questions the human relationships that comprise fieldwork, and the limits of ethnography to assist at or represent suffering. Following migrants' travels through life, it reflects on ways personal stories, dream-sharing, and rememberings intimate ways anthropological knowledge is formed eclectically out of what people agree upon, interpretations of exchanges that cannot be voiced, and desires and imaginings by which they make sense of what is strange or difficult to bear.

"To the eternal memory of the event": Walking as a methodology for exploring the silent histories of absent communities in L'viv, Ukraine.

Author: Elena Liber (Goldsmiths College) email
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Short abstract

How can we listen to the unspoken and unspeakable histories that are present in the city of L'viv, Ukraine? This paper examines walking, talking, and the "sensing of history" (Richardson, 2008) as a method for interrogating historical silences and the presence of absent communities.

Long abstract

Memory and movement in the former Soviet Union is the focus of much anthropological work examining the relationship between migration/movement, contested histories and the role of kinship in the transmission of memory (Skultans, 1997; Richardson, 2008; Pine, 2013; Witeska-Mlynarczyk, 2014).

Based on my PhD project on family memory and silences in relation to post-EuroMaidan national memory policy in Ukraine, I suggest that walking and talking in the urban space of the city provides a methodology which allows historical silences related to the mass forced movement of Jews and Ukrainians during the Second World War to be examined. This paper reflects on three periods of ethnographic fieldwork carried out in L'viv, Ukraine between November 2016 and June 2018 consisting of participant observation, life history interviews, and informal interviews carried out while walking in the city.

How do the traces left in the city by people and communities who never returned allude to unspoken and unspeakable histories? What impact does national memory policy have on the nature of these silences? How does the city space facilitate alternative methods of talking about histories that are silenced by the state? To fully understand how the past is shaping post-EuroMaidan Ukraine it is essential that we interrogate the role of silent, unspeakable histories and recognise the presence of absent communities through their silence (Kidron, 2009).

Politicized Ritual Silence in the Netherlands: The Silent March

Author: Peter Jan Margry (University of Amsterdam/Meertens Institute, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences) email
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Short abstract

Since the 1990's the silent march has become an established ritual of memorialization in times of societal crisis after disasters and untimely deaths. This paper argues that the march not only is an instrument for coping with traumatic death, but also a ritual of protest and binding.

Long abstract

Especially since the 1990's the silent march has become an established nation-wide ritual of memorialization in times of societal crisis after disasters and for victims of 'senseless violence' and untimely deaths. This paper argues that in the Netherlands - a country divided along ethnic and religious lines - this ritual has not only become an instrument for coping with traumatic death, but also a ritual of protest. Via mediatized channels the ritual creates and expresses a national form of civil religion, and is hence able to generate binding forces in a contemporary multicultural society. Contrary to other public ritual expressions of protest and demonstrations, the silent march is characterized by silence and a minimal presence of related material culture. The paper will address how the absence of both characteristics have an effect on the performance and meaning of the ritual.

Art Asylum and Islam: Absences, Presences, Movements

Author: Katarzyna Puzon (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) email
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Short abstract

This paper addresses the dynamics of absence and presence and examines the ways in which a collaboration between a local art initiative and a Berlin-based museum offers space for a critical investigation of the representation and recognition of Islam.

Long abstract

The so-called "refugee crisis" - or the "long summer of migration" - stirred a heated debate about mobility, diversity and difference across the European continent, frequently accompanied by simplified representations of Islam that have been part of this discussion. By addressing the dynamics of absence and presence, I examine the ways in which a collaboration between a local art initiative and a Berlin-based museum holds the potential to offer space for a critical investigation of the representation and recognition of Islam.

Based on long-term ethnographic research, this paper focuses on the practices of the art collective Kunstasyl ("Art Asylum"), which includes asylum seekers and others, and their collaboration with the Museum of European Cultures (MEK) in the Dahlem neighbourhood of Berlin. The outcome of this cooperation was, among other projects, the exhibition entitled "daHEIM: Einsichten in flüchtige Leben" ("daHEIM: glances into fugitive lives") and a series of performances. This paper explores those practices and is concerned with presences/absences and silences, and when, where and how they happen. I discuss the contexts and motivations behind them, as well as how silences might "speak for themselves" (Trouillot 1995).

Lost contact: silence, movement, and the politics of HIV care in Aceh, Indonesia

Author: Annemarie Samuels (Leiden University) email
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Short abstract

This paper draws on ethnographic material on HIV care in Indonesia to discuss how silences of people who do not return for treatment after diagnosis may be a haunting presence in the quest for bureaucratic transparency, while strategic silences of people living with HIV may also be a form of care.

Long abstract

How do silences move through space and time? What, on the other hand, are the social and historical constellations in which untold stories may become stuck? This paper draws on stories told by people who travel long distances to obtain HIV care in Aceh, Indonesia, and reflects on the mostly untold stories of the people who don't. In Aceh, AIDS is made both publicly present and invisible through lingering colonial and postcolonial healthcare bureaucracies and the unspeakability of violence. People living with HIV navigate a politics of speech, in which speaking out may be both socially dangerous and medically necessary. Silence is a strategy for those who undertake the often costly, time-consuming and socially risky travel to the provincial hospital to pursue healthcare. For them, silence may help to retain ordinary life. At the limits of narrative possibility, intersubjectivity here emerges out of gestures, whispers, and half-spoken sentences. Yet silence also resides in the untold lives of those who cannot or do not want to travel and be known, those who the hospital staff categorize as "lost contact": people who do not return for treatment after receiving their diagnosis. While the silence of the "lost contacts" haunts the bureaucratic need for transparency, the intimate navigations of silence and speech of the people who do seek health care at the risk of social stigmatization reveal the im/possibilities of silence as care in precarious lifeworlds. In this postcolonial healthcare setting, I suggest, silences may haunt as well as heal.

Nation building and long term silencing in Central Europe

Author: Elena Soler (Charles University/Karlova Univerzita) email
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Short abstract

Considering long-term silences as an analytical category of knowledge and based on an ethnographic research, the aim of this paper is to analyse the many symbolic meanings, uses and processes of silences in Czech society and its relation to national minorities constructions and nation building.

Long abstract

As social theorists we know that the meanings and uses attributed to silence (individual or collective) are neither self-evident nor stable across, or even within, different cultural and historical locations and contexts. Silence, the same as verbal language, it is another way of communication. Considering long-term silence (silencing) as a useful analytical category of knowledge essential to understand nation building and based on an ethnographic research on the Czech Republic some of the topics and questions raised that will try to be answered are: What are the many symbolic meanings, idioms, and cultural processes of silences we can find in Czech society, and its relation to national minority constructions (ethnic, linguistic, religious…) and nation building? In which domains does silence or hidden secrets persist in everyday life: life and death; gift and commodity; kinship and family; gender and sex, ethnicity and race; health and disease; peace and conflict, religion and secularism…; To what extent those silence frameworks are related to inclusion and exclusion acceptance or rejection; connections and relatedness and distance; pure and impure; truth and lies; trust or mistrust; continuity and change; stability and threat; acknowledgements and indifference...? and finally, to what extent, those long-term silences have been strategically used in order to distort a national past and create a current narrative reality in the process of nation building in Central Europe (political instrumentalization of silences).

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.