What is Silence? Wendy Brown Reading

Sarah's picture

When I saw that we were reading Wendy Brown, after we had read some of her quotes in Sweeney’s book, I was prepared to feel negatively about her.  I’m not sure if I understood correctly, but when reading “Reading is my Window” I understood that Sweeney was often arguing against Brown’s words and I often find myself taking the authors side.  So it was interesting to begin reading Brown feeling like I was going to question everything she said (when normally I tend to go along with the authors words), and this was more complicated by the fact that I had to read slowly to understand.  I tried to read critical, and even though I thought I would be against a lot of what she wrote, what I understood mostly made sense to me, but was also complicated by the fact that a lot of it seemed paradoxical.  Examples of some paradoxes I stumbled across were:

  1. that using your freedom to choose negates what freedom is because it cancels out the original freedom you had
  2. the modern day desire to make private matters public
  3. silence as “shelter for power” vs “shelter from power”
  4. how labeling and putting a name to a negative experience may reinforce the experience
  5. when you try to tell personal stories and create a community, this ends up excluding people

Basically, it was hard not to agree with Brown, but I don’t know where these paradoxes leave me.  I felt kind of like she was saying "silence is both everything and nothing", but I find myself looking for something more specific... I'm still asking “What is silence?”.  I wonder if she is trying to show there aren’t concrete answers to these questions, but we should still explore them anyway.

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