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The Elephant in the RoomSilence and Denial in Everyday Life$
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Eviatar Zerubavel

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195187175

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195187175.001.0001

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A Conspiracy of Silence

A Conspiracy of Silence

(p.1) Chapter One A Conspiracy of Silence
The Elephant in the Room

Eviatar Zerubavel

Oxford University Press

The famous fourteenth-century Castilian story about a Moorish king duped by three swindlers into believing that a dazzling new suit they are supposedly weaving for him is somehow invisible to any person of illegitimate birth was famously retold by Hans Christian Andersen, who basically kept it intact. “The Emperor's New Clothes” illustrates evocative commentary on social life. Denial is a product of individual and collective efforts. Conspiracies of silence are clearly socially patterned as the quintessential public manifestation of denial. Embarrassment, pain, fear, and shame can produce silence. Silence and denial involve active avoidance. The “elephant in the room” is metaphorically evocative of any object or matter of which everyone is definitely aware, yet no one is willing to publicly acknowledge. This book highlights the distinctly generic properties of conspiracies of silence. An overview of the chapters included in it is given in this chapter.

Keywords:   silence, Emperor's New Clothes, Hans Christian Andersen, embarrassment, pain, fear, shame, elephant in room, denial

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