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Together with Mónica Brito Vieira (York), Sean W. D. Gray (Harvard), and Toby Rollo (Lakehead, Canada), I published a Critical Exchange in the journal Contemporary Political Theory titled

The Nature of Silence and Its Democratic Possibilities

It consists of four contributions and an introduction.

  • Silence as a Mode of Political Communication: Negotiating Expectations – Theo Jung.
  • Interpreting Silence: A Note of Caution – Sean W.D. Gray.
  • Two Political Ontologies and Three Models of Silence: Voice, Signal, and Action – Toby Rollo.
  • Silent Agency – Mónica Brito Vieira.

A pre-publication online version of the text can be read here, the published version here.

The Critical Exchange proposes a reconsideration of the multifarious forms and functions of silence in the political field, which cannot be reduced to the effects of silencing or of secrecy alone, but also encompass silent resistance, denial and a multitude of performative practices constitutive of individual or group identities.

My own contribution concerns the current state of research into political silences and some of its weaknesses. It proposes a re-orientation focused on the role of expectations, starting from the premise that communicative silence functions as the expressive omission of an expected signal.

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Julian Scott: Empire of Silence, Swiss Expo 2002.

Many thanks to my co-contributors, but especially to Mónica for inviting us to York and for organizing this publication.

As a group, we are working on another special issue on this topic, currently under review at the Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy.

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After my interview a few weeks ago, Deutschlandfunk radio has now also broadcast a review by the Austrian author and literary critic Günter Kaindlstorfer of the edited volume Zwischen Handeln und Nichthandeln. Unterlassungspraktiken in der europäischen Moderne in its program Andruck – Das Magazin für politische Literatur.

It can be found here.

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Many thanks to Günter Kaindsltorfer for his wide ranging and thoughtful comments.

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Johan Schloemann, a journalist at the Süddeutsche Zeitung, has published a short article on the edited volume Zwischen Handeln und Nichthandeln: Unterlassungspraktiken in der europäischen Moderne and about my contribution about the withholding of applause and acclamation as a form of protest.

It may be found here.

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The new edition of Francia-Recensio includes a review by my hand of the edited volume

Fanny Platelle, Hélène Roth (dir.), Le déclin dans le monde germanique. Mots, discours et représentations (1914–2014), Reims (Éditions et presses universitaires de Reims) 2018

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The volume considers discourses of decadence, decline, and degeneration in the german-language world since the First World War. On the one hand, it aims to go beyond the normal focus on the late 19th century Kulturkritik. On the other, it includes a number of as yet unexplored thematic fields like architecture and city planning.

My review can be found here.

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My edited volume

Zwischen Handeln und Nichthandeln: Unterlassungspraktiken in der europäischen Moderne
(Between Action and Inaction: Practices of Omission in European Modernity)

has been published by Campus (flyer, contents).

Jung Zwischen Handeln und Nichthandeln

From non-voting through consumer boycotts up to the minute of silence: in many cases it is not action, but rather its omission, which produces the most poignant social and political effects.

This volume is the first systematic analysis of this hybrid phenomenon, in which activity and inactivity overlap. Building on a range of case studies from nineteenth and twentieth century Europe, the contributions explore the peculiar logic and historical impact of practices of ommission. Their analysis brings to the fore a type of social and political practice that has hitherto received scant scholarly attention. At the same time, it promises to shed new light on the structures and dynamics of modern societies, since what it means not to do something in any given context is inseparably linked to current expectations regarding ‘normal’ or ‘legitimate’ behavior. Thus, the conflicts and controversies surrounding moments of socio-political inactivity (be they out of lethargy, disinterest, avoidance or outright refusal) point beyond themselves to the horizon of expectations and the constraints of action in various historical constellations.

The volume encompasses ten contributions, most of which were first discussed at a workshop I organized in Freiburg in September 2017. A few were added later on, to enrich the spectrum of historical contexts and practices.

Contents

Einleitung

  • Theo Jung: Bartleby und das Unterlassen: Elemente einer historischen Praxeologie des Nicht/Handelns

I. Verzichten: Politische Teilnahmeerwartungen in der Kontroverse

  • Hedwig Richter: Das Desinteresse an politischen Wahlen: Preußen und die USA im 19. Jahrhundert
  • Wim de Jong: Partizipationsunterlassung, Antipolitik und Apathie als repertoires of democracy: Die Niederlande im europäischen Kontext (1945-1990)
  • Christian Halbrock: Nicht-Handeln und Nicht-Mitmachen: Nicht erfüllte Erwartungen und politisch abweichendes Verhalten in der DDR

II. Innehalten: Inaktivität und Vergesellschaftung

  • Yvonne Robel: Vom Appell zur Anleitung: Ratschläge zum Nichtstun seit den 1950er Jahren
  • Benjamin Möckel: Partizipationsverweigerung in der Konsumgesellschaft: Boykott und politischer Protest im 20. Jahrhundert
  • Armin Owzar: “The End of Conversation”? Prolegomena zu einer Geschichte des Schweigens in politischer Kommunikation

III. Aussetzen: Symbolische Performanzen der Unterlassung

  • Theo Jung: Ausbleibender Beifall: Akklamationsverweigerung als Modus öffentlichen Protests in Frankreich (1789-1848)
  • Karsten Lichau: “A complete susension of all our normal activities”: Praktiken des Nicht/Handelns in der Schweigeminute

Ausblick: Philosophische Perspektiven

  • Jochen Gimmel: Zum Begriff des Nicht/Handelns und der Hoffnung, Geschichte zum Stillstand bringen zu können

Thanks

I am very grateful to the Chair of Modern Europan History (Prof. Dr. Jörn Leonhard), the Frankreich-Zentrum and the Sonderforschungsbereich 1015 Muße. Grenzen, Raumzeitlichkeit, Praktiken at the Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg, but especially to the Gerda Henkel Stiftung for their generous funding of this research project throughout its various stages. This publication would not have been possible without the help of Dr. Dominique Schröder, Timo Holz and Anna Mashi. The text was meticulously proofread by Christoph Roolf. For his coordination of the publishing process, my thanks go out to Jürgen Hotz of Campus Verlag.

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I’m glad to announce that my article

Auftritt durch Austritt: Debattenboykotts als parlamentarische Praxis in Großbritannien und Frankreich (1797-1823)

[Performance by Means of Withdrawal: Debating Boycotts as a Parliamentary Practice in Britain and France (1797-1823)]

has been published in the 58th volume of the Archiv für Sozialgeschichte, a special issue under the title “Practising Democracy. Arenas, Processes and Ruptures of Political Participation in Western Europe during the 19th and 20th Centuries”. At a workshop held in Berlin in November 2017 (Call for Papers, Program), the preliminary drafts of the contributions were discussed and prepared for the publication now available from J. W. Dietz Verlag.

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My contribution asks under what circumstances the refusal to participate can itself become a mode of political practice.

Participation is often understood to be a fundamental value of democratic politics. But under some circumstances, the conditions of given opportunities to take part in political decision making processes are structured in ways that prohibit their de facto effectiveness. In such cases, political groups may choose to exit from established platforms and institutions in order to symbolically express their disapproval of the given situation.

Taking the example of oppositional groups’ parliamentary boycotts in the context of the changing systems of early parliamentarism, my contribution argues that the refusal to participate can itself be a forceful mode of democratic practice. Cases from the Irish, British and French parliaments shed light on the specific logic and political relevance of these boycotts in the historical context of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The volume’s introduction, written by Anja Kruke and Philipp Kufferath, may be found online here. The other contributinos are available in print.

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In the Handbuch Sound edited by Daniel Morat and Hansjakob Ziemer, which is now available both as eBook and hardcover, my article on

Silence / Schweigen

provides a survey of the wide and sprawling interdisciplinary landscape of ‘silence research’ with a special focus on the subject’s political dimensions. After an overview over various approaches and empirical fields, the contribution argues for the need for a stronger analytical integration of two aspects that have hitherto mostly been considered separately: the spectrum of cultural meanings of silence on the one hand and the pragmatics of its use as a particular mode of language on the other.

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