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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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The Rules of Denial

The Rules of Denial

Chapter:
(p.17) Chapter Two The Rules of Denial
Source:
The Elephant in the Room
Author(s):

Eviatar Zerubavel

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195187175.003.0002

This chapter addresses the social organization of denial. Focus shifts as social attitudes change. Noticing and ignoring are always performed by members of particular social communities with particular social conventions of attention and communication. In fact, the way one focuses his attention is often grounded in highly impersonal social traditions of paying attention. The normative underpinnings of the mental acts of noticing and ignoring are most spectacularly evident in the tacit social rules that determine what is considered irrelevant. It is noted that one acts tactfully when one “passes over something…and leaves it unsaid.” The distinction between tact and taboo is not as clear-cut as it may seem. It becomes fairly fuzzy when one considers, for example, the kind of silence produced by “political correctness,” as when people refrain from using race labels to avoid the risk of being considered racist.

Keywords:   denial, social organization, focus, noticing, ignoring, tact, taboo, irrelevant

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