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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 Politics of Denial

The Politics of Denial

(p.33) Chapter Three The Politics of Denial
The Elephant in the Room

Eviatar Zerubavel

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores institutionalized prohibitions against looking, listening, and speaking that help keep certain matters off-limits. It is noted that what is seen, heard, and talked about is influenced by both normative and political pressures. The role of power in the social organization of attention and discourse is then addressed. Power enables people to control the amount of information that is conveyed to them. It also involves control over the bounds of acceptable discourse and involves the ability to redirect others' attention by “changing the subject.” Silencing is used “as a weapon of subjugation…the suffocation of the Other's voice.” Imposing secrecy need not involve any verbal exchange at all, as when a potential witness is promoted or given a raise in tacit exchange for his or her silence, or when a child molester simply closes the blinds or locks the door. Silencing is thus often done in utter silence.

Keywords:   looking, listening, speaking, power, social organization, silencing, secrecy

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