Unintelligible Silence

Challenging Academic Authority in a New Socio-dialogic Politics of the Real for Collective Justice and Transformation

  • Katherine E. Entigar The Graduate Center, CUNY
Keywords: academic authority, absence as presence, decolonizing, imagination, intelligibility, politics of reality, silence, Western-centric rationalism


What is silence? Is it a loss, an omission? Is it a stopping of the mouth, of the voice? An empty place where no meaning has come forward…or perhaps at times quite the opposite, an absence-as-presence  Deleuze, 1990; Derrida, 1976)? Might silence evoke much more about what we assume is our monological, unitary reality, indexing possibilities yet unseen? This paper outlines the ways in which silence is typically understood according to scholarly orthodoxy: as omission in human communication or a silencing of minoritized individuals or communities by those in power. It then moves to critique the preeminence of whitestream (Grande, 2003) Western-centric academic authority, which self-perpetuates via the exclusion of outsider ways of doing, being and knowing such as those brought forward by silence, constituting a loss of meaning and knowledge from the social imaginary. This paper suggests that the pursuit of an articulate unknowing (Zembylas, 2005) regarding silence as a creative, disruptive force beyond the control of rationality is a means of engaging with radical possibilities for a different, juster world. It proposes a socio-diologic politics of the real that welcomes silence as an unsettling of our current thinking about what is and will be possible, as well as who does and does not matter. It concludes by illustrating the ingenious force of silence in examples of subversive art that expose the hegemonizing, rational(ized) version of reality sold by academics and powerholders, bringing forward into the imagination what prospects for change, justice, and social transformation yet await. 


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How to Cite
Entigar, K. (2020). Unintelligible Silence. Outlines. Critical Practice Studies, 21(1), 06-18. Retrieved from https://tidsskrift.dk/outlines/article/view/116621