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For an interdisciplinary volume on silence edited by Mahshid Mayar (Cologne) and Marion Schulte (Bielefeld), I wrote a chapter on the way Europeans have historically framed the question ‘talkative’ and ‘taciturn’ nations.

Even today, we often think of authoritarian and dictatorial regimes in terms of ‘silence’, while parliamentary and democratic politics are linked to the category of ‘voice’. Retracing the historical emergence of such conceptualizations during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, my chapter aims at a reconsideration of these familiar, but reductive binaries.

Exploring French, German, and British discourses on the question why some nations are more talkative than others brings to light a fundamental shift in the understanding of communication around the turn of the nineteenth century, when explanations in terms of national character were gradually superseded by a point of view linking taciturnity and talkativeness to specific political regimes.

This gradual reorientation from a spatio-cultural to a temporal framing coincided with a distinct politicization of the question of communication (and its absence) which still resonates today. Placing our current understanding of the significance of voice and silence into a wider historical perspective thus contributes to a reconsideration of the meanings of communication in the modern world.

  • Talkative and Taciturn Nations. Ethnographic and Political Perspectives in European Discourses on Communicative Cultures (c. 1750–1850), in: Mahshid Mayar und Marion Schulte (eds): Silence and its Derivatives. Conversations Across Disciplines. London 2022, 87–108.

The chapter can be dowloaded here. The whole volume is to be found here.

Many thanks to the editors for their meticulous organization of the publishing process.

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