How can we know the unknowable? How do people respond to the secrecy of hegemonic forces? What knowledge do actions of counter-secrecy, such as gossip, rumours, implied suggestions, give rise to, and in what ways and between whom does such knowledge spread?
This interdisciplinary series of webinars seeks to explore contemporary and historical social and cultural responses to secrecy. We contend that the secrecy of powerful others – whether nation-states or multinational corporations – generates particular responses in terms of knowledge production. Such responses may take the form of rumours, guesswork, metaphorical representations in literature and film, and they may be felt in the gut or be written onto and into bodies. In some cases, secrecy may present as a public secret (e.g. Taussig 1999) – something that is privately known but can only be publicly talked about in specific ways, such as the East German Secret Police, the Stasi. In other instances, it may be something that can be discussed but where knowledge, or the right kind of knowledge, is too technical or time consuming to grasp or too inconvenient to deal with, such as data collection through social media or mobile phone apps in the digital age.
Theoretical and/or interdisciplinary approaches to secrecy and knowledge
Emotional and embodied knowledge and responses
Knowledge through gossip, rumours, suspicions
Surveillance in relation to secrecy, privacy and knowledge
Epistemological and methodological challenges
We invite all those interested in these topics to submit abstracts for one of the five themed webinars, which will take place during February and March 2022. We particularly welcome submissions from early career scholars and postgraduate students. Abstracts should be 250-300 words long and should be accompanied by a shorter summary of no more than 150 characters including spaces. Please also indicate to which webinar you would like your proposed paper to go. Please note that, if chosen, in some cases we may suggest an alternative session depending on the emerging fit.
Please send your paper proposal by email no later than 30th November 2021 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This series of webinars is organised by the research group ‘Knowing the Secret Police: Secrecy and Knowledge in East German Society’ (AHRC AH/R005915/1). This project explores questions of secrecy and power in East German society in relation to the East German Secret Police, the Stasi. It asks not what the ‘all-powerful’ Stasi knew about society, but what and how East Germans knew about the work strategies of the state security apparatus.
Dr Anselma Gallinat, Reader in Social Anthropology, Newcastle University