What Does Silence Do? The Discursive Effects of Silence

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractScientificpeer-review


In this presentation, I explore how silence is embedded to different discursive contexts, namely here to the contexts of critical race studies, and educational studies. The introductory question of this text, what does silence do, is developed towards the question: what does your silence do in this context even if you do not intend it to do what it does? The premise of the presentation is a visual poem, a diagram that observes the words silent and listen. Even though these words share the same letters and silence is often coined together with listening, critical race theory shows how the act of listening more carefully is insufficient in relation to questions of structural racism and discrimination. In social and educational situations, othering and structural discrimination are reinforced by the silence of teachers and normative expectations for social communication. Selective mutism, which has strong connections to social anxiety, is another example of an easily bypassed silence. I address how the societal and cultural norms of social competence affect possibilities for communication and connection. I explore why inadvertent inclusions and exclusions should be addressed and how a visual poem can elucidate subtle interdependences between words, silences, and discourses.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2020
MoE publication typeNot Eligible
EventArt of Research Conference: Authorship and Responsibility - Aalto University, Otaniemi campus, Espoo, Finland
Duration: 3 Dec 20204 Dec 2020
Conference number: 7


ConferenceArt of Research Conference
Abbreviated titleAoR
Internet address


  • silence
  • selective mutism
  • antiracism
  • discourse
  • visual poem


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