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An article I wrote for Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy has been published online. In it, I survey the state of current scholarship on political silences and propose a way forward for future research by means of a re-engagement with Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory and its concept of expectations.

Mind the Gaps: Silences, Political Communication, and the Role of Expectations

https://doi.org/10.1080/13698230.2020.1796329

Through this link, the first fifty readers can access the article online for free. After that, please contact me by email.

Abstract

Predicated on a one-sided focus on political “voice”, analyses of political silences traditionally focused almost exclusively on their negative role as the harmful absence of participation or responsibility. More recently, a new appreciation for the wide spectrum of political functions of silence has gained ground, including forms of willful renitence and even active resistance. Yet this thematic expansion has also resulted in a loss of focus. Lacking a common analytical framework, research on political silences risks limiting itself to the purely additive: finding and filling in ever more minute ‘blank spots’ on the periphery of the map of political research. Building on the work of the German sociologist Niklas Luhmann, this paper proposes a solution to this dilemma by means of a reconsideration of the political role of expectations. In political discourse, the expected distribution of moments of silence and articulation expresses established power structures, while unexpected silences and the breaking of expected silences conversely present a powerful means of calling these into question. Focusing on this ambivalence paves the way to a new systematic typology of political silences as a distinct mode of political communication. But above all, it points to the value of silence as an analytical probe, an instrument to fathom the expectations and constraints structuring political discourse in various contexts and spaces. Besides providing the study of silence with an overarching research focus, such an approach would thus build a bridge between the issue of political silence and wider debates on the structures of the political field as a whole.

The article is part of a special issue titled Silence in Political Theory and Practice, edited by Mónica Brito Vieira.  Its contributions include

  • Mónica Brito Vieira (York), Introduction
  • Theo Jung (Freiburg), Mind the Gaps: Silences, Political Communication, and the Role of Expectations
  • Toby Rollo (Lakehead University), Democratic Silence: Two Forms of Domination in the Social Contract Tradition
  • Sean Gray (Harvard), Silence and Democratic Institutional Design
  • Mihaela Mihai (Edinburgh), The Hero’s Silences: Vulnerability, Complicity, Ambivalence
  • Mónica Brito Vieira (York), The Great Wall of Silence: Voice-Silence Dynamics in Authoritarian Regimes

The print version will be published next year in vol. 24, issue 3 of the journal.

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In the summer semester of 2020, I will be teaching a course titled

Surviving – Experiencing – Writing: Diaries from National Socialist Concentration Camps

[Überleben – Erleben – Schreiben: Tagebücher aus nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslagern]

These diaries provide a unique insight into the prisoners’ experiences in the camps as well as in the way they tried to cope with them through the medium of diary writing.

Building on research by Renata Laqueur, Alexandra Garbarini, Amos Goldberg, and especially Dominique Schröder – whose book on the topic has been announced for publication in June of this year – the primary goal of this course will be to give the students the opportunity to work directly with the sources.

In the current circumstances, this course will be the first one I will teach fully online, using a number of different tools. I’ve also started a collection of websites on the course topic available online.

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4250I’m glad to announce that my article

Die Stimme des Volkes und sein Schweigen: die Kommunikationsrevolution von 1848/49 zwischen Erwartung und Erfahrung

[The People’s Voice and Its Silence: The Communications Revolution of 1848 between Expectation and Experience]

has been published in the 59th volume of the Archiv für Sozialgeschichte, a special issue under the title “Changing the World Revolutions in History”.

Preliminary drafts of the contributions were discussed at a workshop held in Berlin in October 2018 (call for papers), before they were prepared for the publication now available from J. W. Dietz Verlag.


My contribution discusses the 1848 German revolution as a ‘communications revolution’. Whereas earlier research had understood this concept mainly in terms of the infrastructural contexts of revolutionary developments, I argue that it can be fruitfully applied to the specific contemporary understanding of what the revolution was and what it aimed to achieve.

Building on a widespread understanding of politics as an articulation of the people’s voice, contemporaries conceived of the revolution first and foremost as a breaking of its silence. The article sketches how this understanding of the political meaning of the revolution impacted revolutionaries’ language use.

Focusing on the first national parliament in Frankfurt, it delineates the negotiation of speech and silence in this decisive political arena as well as the reactions this elicited from outside. Thus, it offers a new interpretation of the 1848 revolution in terms of the changing expectations put on politician’s communicative action and of their impact on political practice.


The volume’s introduction, written by Kerstin Heinsohn and Dietmar Süß can be read online here. The other contributions (summaries) are available in print.

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On February 7 and 8, I’m taking part in a workshop on current research on nineteenth century political and social history organized by the DFG funded Project Political Participation in the Provinces located at Saarland University.

I’m commenting on a panel on ‘Politics and Publicity’, encompassing papers by Angela Heinemann (Duisburg-Essen) on the emotional history of student associations and gymnastics in early nineteenth century Germany and by Christian Maiwald (Cologne) on the contestation of press censorship in Vienna in the same period.

Other panels address themes like ‘Participation in the Periphery’, ‘Elites’, ‘Politics and Religion’ (commented on by my colleague Christina Schröer), ‘Politics and Infrastructure’ (including a paper by my other colleague Konrad Hauber). The workshop is concluded by a general discussion moderated by Professor Armin Owzar (Paris).

Many thanks to the organizers, especially to Professor Gabriele Clemens and Amerigo Caruso for getting together what looks like a very interesting workshop.

The complete program can be found here.

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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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The radio show Lesart / das politische Buch on Deutschlandfunk Kultur broadcast a short interview with me on the edited volume “Zwischen Handeln und Nichthandeln. Unterlassungspraktiken in der europäischen Moderne”.

It can be heard here.

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Many thanks to host Florian-Felix Weyh for his invitation to talk about the volume’s approach and case studies.

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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.

Reception

The volume has been discussed and reviewed in various contexts.

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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.

9783476026040

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The ‘digital research guide’ to the field of nineteenth century history my colleagues and I of the Chair of Modern Western European History at Freiburg University published in 2016 has been updated to include some new material and links.

In this text, we present a broad overview over the digital resources presently available to historians of the ‘long’ nineteenth century, ranging from search catalogues and source databases to institutional frameworks and communication platforms. It aims to ‘guide’ the student and scholar through this new field of expertise as well as provide a critical evaluation of the possibilities and pitfalls opened up by the availability of these new gateways to information and source materials.

The updated edition is available here.

In addition to this guide, a link database on digital resources for historians I curate using the platform Pearltrees is available here.

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The Florilegium Historicum section, in which I intermittently publish short quotations from the source materials I work with, has been transfered to a separate blog.

It may now be found at:

https://florilegiumhistoricum.wordpress.com/

All old posts have been transfered there also.

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