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Posts Tagged ‘Silence’

The latest issue of French History includes an article I wrote on the role of silence during the French Revolution, titled

Le silence du peuple: The Rhetoric of Silence during the French Revolution

French History, 31, Issue 4 (2017), p. 440–469.

https://doi.org/10.1093/fh/crx062

Abstract

In July 1789, a phrase was introduced into French political discourse that would quickly become a standing expression: le silence du peuple est la leçon des rois. Taking this political bon mot as a starting point, the article traces the uses of and responses to collective silences during the French Revolution. It is argued that silence cannot be reduced to just the lack of ‘voice’ indicating suppression or political impotence. Rather, it must be understood as a mode of political action with a rhetoric of its own. Sketching this rhetoric not only highlights the nature and functions of a mode of political communication too often disregarded. It also shows how the controversies surrounding these silences reflected some of the major political questions of the day, playing a key role in the renegotiations of the communicative spaces of politics set off by the Revolution.

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Gandhi works more effectively upon the country when he is silent than when he talks, when he is out of the Congress than when he is in. People may have forgotten the fact that at Cawnpore in the year 1925, he took a vow of political silence which he broke at Gauhati in December 1926. But to him such periods of silence, physical or political, are periods of incubation when huge plans mature in his mind and are, after full gestation, given birth to as well-thought-out programmes and formulae. One such long interval was the period between the Cawnpore Session (1925) and the Calcutta Session of 1928 which were followed by the Lahore (1929) challenge on the ticket of complete Independence. Gandhi resists his own following and tries their mettle as much as he does his opponents.

B. Pattabhi Sitaramayya: Gandhi in His Many Aspects, in: Mahatma Gandhi. Essays & Recollections, Mumbai 1998, p. 220.

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On April 6 to 7, I will participate in a conference organized by the History of Parliament research group in cooperation with Prof. Christopher Reid of Queen Mary University London.

The conference program may be found here.

My own paper, titled

“A Rhetoric of Silence: Silent Members in the July Monarchy Chamber of Deputies (1830-1848)”,

will be concerned with the rhetorical role of the silent members in the parliamentary debates of the July Monarchy. As I will argue, these silent members were anything but passive. Rather, they developed a complex rhetoric of their own, playing a significant role in the development of debates.

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Taking a short break from my research in the London archives and the British Library and the many interesting workshops at the German Historical Institute, I am returning to Germany for a short visit to present my research at the

Colloquium of the Chair of Modern and Contemporary History at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich (Prof. Dr. Thomas Etzemüller, substituting for Prof. Dr. Margit Szöllösi-Janze) on November 12th

as well as at a workshop of the

Arbeitskreis Geschichte und Theorie in Berlin on November 14th.

I’m looking forward to the opportunity to discuss my project in these very different contexts.

 

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From October 2014 to March 2015, I will be a fellow at the German Historical Institute London with a grant funded by the Max Weber Stiftung. Besides finishing the archival research for my research project about the uses of silence in nineteenth-century political communication, I will have to opportunity to start the writing process of my ‘habilitation’.

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In the new year, I will be presenting my research in various contexts.

On January 16, I will present my current research project (Habilitation) in the research colloquium of Prof. Dr. Paul Nolte at the Freie Universität Berlin. The title of my presentation will be:

Politisches Schweigen: Sprachspiele an den Grenzen politischer Kommunikation, ca. 1815–1920.
(Political Silence: Language Games on the Edges of Political Communication, ca. 1815-1920).

One week later, on the 24th and 25th of January, I will participate in a workshop titled Kulturkritik zwischen Frankreich und Deutschland (1860-1933): Schreibweisen zwischen Wissenschaft und Dichtung organized by Prof. Dr. Barbara Beßlich, PD Dr. Olivier Agard and Prof. Dr. Gérard Raulet at Heidelberg University. My presentation (to be held on Friday, January 24 at 10:15) will be titled:

Eine ‘Klage, die so alt ist, als die Geschichte’? Kulturkritik um 1800 und 1900 im diachronen Vergleich.
(A ‘Complaint, as Old as History Itself’? Kulturkritik Around 1800 and 1900 Compared).

Finally, I will participate in a conference titled Die Geschichtlichkeit kollektiver Vorstellungen: Historische Semantik und Soziologie, to be held in Lüneburg from 13 to 15 February, organized by the section Sociology of Culture of the German Society for Sociology. My paper (to be held on Saturday at 11:45) is titled:

Beschleunigung: theoretische und empirische Perspektiven auf eine Kategorie der Moderne.
(Acceleration: Theoretical and Empirical Perspectives on a Category of Modernity).

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Next Tuesday, June 7th, I will be presenting my new research project on the history of silence in the Research Colloquium organized by Prof. Dr. Leonhard and PD. Dr. Goltermann. Under the title: “At the limits of language: building blocks for a comparative history of silence in the ‘long’ 19th century’, I will address some major theoretical and methodological issues I would like to explore in a research project currently taking shape. All are welcome to attend.

Link to the programme.

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