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Workshop - Silence in Times of Transition, April 7 2016, University of Edinburgh, UK

Publish Date: Nov 15, 2015

Deadline: Dec 04, 2015

This workshop will examine the role of silence and silencing during post-authoritarian and post-conflict transitional periods. Mechanisms established during these periods, such as courts, truth commissions, public apologies, memorials and even reparations programs often champion public discussion about experiences, both directly and indirectly. Talking is frequently understood to be a cathartic release, but what about those who do not wish to speak about the past? Marita Eastmond and Johanna Mannegren Selimovic (2012) argue that silence in Bosnia and Herzegovina conveys its own social meanings. Rosalind Shaw (2007) argues that Sierra Leoneans were more interested in ‘forgetting’ than talking about the past. In these instances, silence is attributed to culture and yet, it appears to be a cross-cultural theme in many transitional societies. Other scholars, such as Cheryl Glenn (2004), argue that silence is a specific form of rhetoric, whilst Bhambra and Shilliam (2008) point out that canonical disciplines can also be complicit in silencing. We build on this body of knowledge, and advance it by investigating the roles, practices and understandings of silence in formal and informal spaces in periods of transition.

We welcome contributions for papers exploring the following issues:

- What role does silence play in broader political settlement processes?
- Are intervention practices, such as peacebuilding and transitional justice, complicit in silencing communities, individuals and experiences?
- Is silence a way of coping, and it if it made out of 'choice', what kinds of personal and/or communal dynamics shape these choices?
- What are the different drivers that construct these silences? How do these experiences become alternatively embodied?
- Can silence convey its own story?
- What is the relationship between silence, time, memory and healing?
- What does silence say about the role of power dynamics between those who do not speak and those who interpret? Is the interpretation of silence different for victims and perpetrators?
- What is the relationship between communal or individual silences, and formal structures, policies and institutions?
- Do physical spaces, such as cities, neighbourhoods and buildings, convey silence?
- How can silence manifest as a form of resistance and agency?

We are especially interested in 'transitions' (to the extent that these can be defined precisely), particularly those that take countries and communities from war, violence and crisis (all interpreted broadly) towards peace and democracy. The workshop will be inter-disciplinary and we welcome contributions from fields such as peacebuilding, transitional justice, anthropology, ethnography, political geography, post-conflict psychology (such as the role of trauma and memory), conflict resolution, post-conflict economies and other fields. We particularly welcome contributions from current PhD students.

We are currently putting together a special issue proposal for Social &
Legal studies, based on the workshop proceedings.

A limited amount of funding is available to cover travel expenses (PhD students will be prioritised). Please note that we are only able to make modest contributions to travel expenses and are unlikely to be able to cover the full cost of non-UK travel. Please let us know if you would require funding, specifying estimate costs when submitting your abstract.
There is NO registration fee for the workshop itself. All abstracts of up to 300 words should be submitted to Laura Martin ( and Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik ( by *Friday,
December 4 th, 2015.

Successful participants will be notified by mid-December.

Program Summary 

The program will be a one-day event happening at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Social and Political Science. The workshop will consist of paper presentations and panel discussions. In addition, there will also be a wine reception followed by a film screening of The Look of Silence in the evening and will be followed by a panel discussion thatwill draw on some of the broader theoretical and conceptual conclusions from both the panels and the film.

Similar Opportunities


Conflict Studies

Peace Building

Peace Studies

Opportunity Types

Financial aid


Eligible Countries


Host Countries

United Kingdom

Event Types