ANK: Webinar Series Secrecy and Knowledge: Social and Cultural Responses to Secrecy, online (24.02. – 09.03.2022)

Betiel Wasihun's picture

Webinar Series Secrecy and Knowledge: Social and Cultural Responses to Secrecy

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.

Webinar 1: Knowledge through gossip, rumours, suspicions & Emotional and embodied knowledge and responses                        Thursday, 24 February 2022: 10 am – 1pm GMT

Chair: Dr Anselma Gallinat, Newcastle University, UK                                                                                                                                                                                

Salman Khokhar, Newcastle University, UK 

Securitisation from Town to City for Ahmadi Muslims

This talk considers how secrecy has underpinned the social mobility of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan.

Dr Mark Fenemore, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK

Subverting the panopticon and outwitting the all-hearing ear: telephonic ‘catfishing’ of the enemy in cold-war Berlin

Surveillance and the panopticon are supposed to be disarming, but what happens if a rogue agent reverses the direction? A catfish avant la lettre, Wolfgang insouciantly toyed with the Stalinist (secret) police.

Dr Rosalie Stolz, Heidelberg University, Germany

(Un)knowing spirits: Secrecy, stories, and the pitfalls of knowing in upland, northern Laos

This paper discusses spirits in northern Laos as powerful others, whose potential is always surrounded by secrecy and subject of vibrant rumours.

*** Chair: Dr Joanne Sayner, Newcastle University, UK

Pradipa Rasidi, EngageMedia, Indonesia

“They are Turning Us to Indonistan!” Curating Twitter Secrets and Disinformation in a Public of Distrust

This paper examines the Jakarta 2017 election in Indonesia during which rumours of a threat of the Islamic caliphate were circulated.

Dr Annerienke Fioole, independent scholar, The Netherlands

Discretion and Doubt: Alternating modes of moulding Uncertain Truths

This paper elucidates how rural Moroccans negotiate out-of-wedlock affairs through collectively creating secrets by alternating discreet and doubtful stances in their everyday interactions.

Dr Gareth Breen, University College London, UK

‘We’ve found the secret of living’: Power, Presence and Secrecy in a Global Christian

Following Relishing the secrecy of its knowledge from powerful outsiders, the global following of Watchman Nee cultivates secrecy as an embodied experience too.                                                                                                                                                                       


Webinar 2: Theoretical and/or interdisciplinary approaches to secrecy and knowledge

Friday, 04 March 2022:

2– 4 pm GMT

Chair: Prof Sara Jones, University of Birmingham, UK 

Dr Vita Peacock, King’s College London, UK

Digital Initiation Rites

This talk examines the logic of exposure of hidden information that bound adherents to the UK 'Anonymous' movement in the 2010s. Drawing on studies of initiation and secret societies, it develops the concept of digital initiation to theorise the role of secret knowledge in the forms of politicisation now occurring widely online.

Dr Erol Saglam, Freie University Berlin, Germany/Istanbul Medeniyet University, Turkey

Knowing the Secret: Conspiratorial Socialities, Politicization, & Masculinities

This paper explores how conspiracy theories deploy secrecy as one of the central themes and how knowing a secret opens up multiple occasions to fashion one’s political subjectivity in affective and corporeal ways.

Aoife Ni Chroidheain, University of Oxford, UK

‘ariadnefabrik’: Exploring the Relationship between Stasi and ‘Samizdat’ 

Using material culture as a theoretical framework, my talk presents ‘ariadnefabrik’ as a controversial case study of the relationship between the Prenzlauer Berg scene and the East German State Security.


Webinar 3: Surveillance in relation to secrecy, privacy and knowledge

Monday, 07 March 2022: 2 – 4 pm GMT

Chair: Dr Betiel Wasihun, University of Birmingham, UK                                                                                                                               

Dr Annie Ring, University College London, UK

How to disappear: short films on escaping surveillance after the Internet

This paper addresses the way contemporary short films are trying to escape digital surveillance but struggling to find a space of privacy (e.g. How Not To Be Seen by the artist Hito Steyerl).

Prof Matthew Potolsky, University of Utah, USA 

The Aesthetics of Secrecy                         

This paper argues for attending to the aesthetic quality of secrets, which teaches us things beyond ethical and epistemological qualities.

Dr Cristina Plămădeală, McGill University, Toronto, Canada           

Recruitment of Securitate Informers in Communist Romania: psuchegraphies in Securitate files         

This paper examines the concept of psuchegraphy in relation to the study of Securitate archives and to the recruitment methods of Securitate informers.


Webinar 4: Epistemological and methodological challenges                 

Wednesday, 09 March 2022: 2– 4 pm GMT                                                                                                                                             

Chair: Dr Grit Wesser, Newcastle University, UK

Prof Mirco Göpfert, Goethe University, Frankfurt a. M., Germany               

Secrecy and the ethnographer’s will to know                                                 

Starting from my own obsession with closed doors and what was going on behind them during fieldwork, I will offer reflections about the practical, not just theoretical, problem of knowledge in anthropology.

Suzanne Kennedy, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada        A window into the unknowable and unspeakable knowledge in families   

Engaging notions of temporality to explore meaning making when people encounter unknowable and unspeakable family knowledge.

Pedro Silva Rocha Lima, Manchester University, UK  

Humanitarian secrets: negotiating disclosure and the ethics of ethnographic writing    

This paper explores the practicalities and ethics of disclosing humanitarian secrets through research on the International Committee of the Red Cross.


If you wish to attend any of the webinars in this series, please register on Eventbrite

This webinar series is organized by the research group “Knowing the Secret Police: Secrecy and Knowledge in East German Society” based at Newcastle University and the University of Birmingham, UK. For more information, please visit our website.

Redaktion: Constanze Baum – Lukas Büsse – Mark-Georg Dehrmann – Nils Gelker – Markus Malo – Alexander Nebrig – Johannes Schmidt

Diese Ankündigung wurde von H-GERMANISTIK [Nils Gelker] betreut –