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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 Social Structure of Denial

The Social Structure of Denial

(p.47) Chapter Four The Social Structure of Denial
The Elephant in the Room

Eviatar Zerubavel

Oxford University Press

This chapter describes the sociological perspective of co-denial. Co-denial assumes mutual avoidance. As the foremost expression of co-denial, silence is a collective endeavour, and it involves a collaborative effort on the parts of both the potential generator and recipient of a given piece of information to stay away from it. The “double wall” of silence was originally theorized by psychologist Dan Bar-On. Walls of silence are often more than double, since the number of those who participate in such conspiracies is by no means limited to two. Moreover, the structural features of social relations and social situations are explained. Silent bystanders act as enablers. The intensity of silence is influenced not only by the number of people who conspire to maintain it, but also by the length of time they manage to do so. “Elephants” usually grow with time, their figurative size hence reflecting their age.

Keywords:   co-denial, silence, double wall, social relations, elephants, Dan Bar-On

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