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date: 28 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter elaborates on prior work to outline the role of silence not only in forgetting but also in memory. It documents two forms of silence: overt silence and covert silence and discusses how each can be used to enhance either memory or forgetting. In its overt manifestations, silence is characterized by a complete absence of speech. Such silence can foster forgetting by obliterating any mention of particular events or people. Overt silences, however, can also foster memory by demarcating a sacred space for quiet contemplation. Covert silences, on the other hand, inhere in—and are often veiled by—much mnemonic talk. These silences are found in commemorative activities where agents of memory want to recollect the past while minimizing its potentially conflictual elements. They can also be used by agents of forgetting who wish to erase the past while presenting the appearance of commemorating it. The chapter concludes by discussing the various ways in which each of these forms of silence can be broken. In outlining these processes, it highlights the central role played by silence in both collective memory and forgetting.

Keywords: silence, collective memory, forgetting, breaking the silence, overt silence, covert silence

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