A Call for Silence in the Pacific

Since colonisation in the Pacific, there has been much talk about cultural differences. Those from European cultures profess a more individualist world view, where one should stand independently of family and social ties. By contrast, Pacific peoples are seen to place much emphasis on genealogy as determinate of selfhood. But behind all this talk, lies a more fundamental difference – silence.

As Unaisi Nabobo-Baba argues in her book Knowing and Learning: An indigenous Fijian approach (Suva: IPS Publications, 2006), the silent child in a Western classroom is seen as a problem. By contrast in many traditional Pacific communities, silence is seen as a culturally appropriate mode of behaviour. Nabobo-Baba goes further and develops a taxonomy of silence, which includes 18 different ways of being quiet, including ‘silence and the elements’ and ‘silence when in awe of custom’ (see here for an extract of her book).

The cultural meaning of silence poses some challenging questions:

  • How can silence be reconciled with modern democracy?
  • What is the role of silence in modern Western countries like Australia?
  • How can silence speak?
  • What is the positive role of silence in the classroom?

Would you be interested in being part of a further discussion about this issue? If you would like to be involved in the development of a colloquium on silence, you are invited to send in your details. This includes:

  • Name
  • Role
  • Area of interest
  • What you would like to contribute to this development

Contributions can include research, a specific perspective, a performance, a venue or a program context.
Please send an email to [email protected]. Responses are due 21 January 2012.

Unaisi Nabobo-Baba, University of Guam www.uog.edu
Kevin Murray, Southern Perspectives www.southernperspectives.net

One thought on “A Call for Silence in the Pacific”

  1. Summer reading on the subject:
    “Silence is an exquisite, poignant collection of fictions’ by one of Australia’s finest writers. Each piece has its own startling imagery. This is a book that constantly surprises with its echoes of famous voices, and where the astonishing breadth of material historical, personal, imagined is held together by its central theme and by a web of subtle connections.”
    http://www.qbd.com.au/product/9781742665917-Silence_by_Rodney_Hall.htm

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