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This entry presents different modes for understanding the notion of silence. Metaphorically, it is used in different cultures to signal different extremes: a technique of mystical revelation of the self, or, on the other extreme, a sinister resonance that recalls death. As such, silence is a term that often refers to the ambiguity of life in the threshold of revelation and/or in the limit between life and death. In the West, the rise of silence as a value has been associated with the rise of the modern, rational subject, tied in turn to an aesthetics of attentive listening and an identification with noise as socially problematic. Silencing, as a verb, is often used as a mode of coercive action central to the dialectics of secrecy and negativity, exclusion and oppression that are constitutive of modern forms of biopolitics. The perception and understanding of silence also depends on how we understand who has the ability to hear and/or produce sounds. 

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