CfP The Place of Silence: Environment, Experience and Affect, Edinburgh College of Art, 22-24 June 2016


Call for Papers
The Place of Silence: Environment, Experience and Affect

Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh

22-24 June 2016

…one must acknowledge a surrounding environment of sound or language in order to recognize silence. Not only does silence exist in a world full of speech and other sounds, but any given silence takes its identity as a stretch of time being perforated by sound.

Susan Sontag, The Aesthetics of Silence

This symposium sets out to explore diverse practices, affects, politics and cultural meanings of silence in historical and contemporary contexts. Situations in which silence is said to be experienced or practiced are highly relative, and the term itself – which is often linked to some condition of cessation or interval – carries complex and varied significations. Thus while, on one hand, the often-remarked upon contemporary ‘loss of silence’ has been frequently linked to a disappearance of reflection or inwardness, silence has also, on the other, been understood as a condition of intensified outwardness – of heightened attention, anticipation, suspense or expanded listening. As life in communities or institutions of silence show, it is about much more than refraining from vocalization – rather, it is a fully embodied practice that implicates movement, gesture, breathing and touch. Approached from another point of view, the role that silence has played as a critical gesture, as a condition of refusal and noncompliance, suggests that the term might be conceptualized in relation to questions of autonomy. Moreover, in certain circumstances, it gains an ethical dimension and force, as is the case with the silence that is exercised to protect others or that is the defendant’s right. At an extreme, silence is often the sign of a limit condition – the silence that falls at the point of exhaustion, catastrophe or technological breakdown. Similarly, it is taken to mark the traumatic limits of experience, as that which testifies to an event beyond any possibility of adequate expression or symbolization. And yet at the same time it inheres in the everyday, appearing as the very precondition of communication, as the gap or delay that acts as the support of speech, or the spacing that forms the condition of legibility of written text. Again, silence might be approached as a particular area of interest that articulates with the larger question of atmosphere, and hence aura, affect, ambience and Stimmung (attunement, mood, disposition).

Although primarily focused on architecture, the city and landscape, we welcome proposals for papers from scholars working across a wide range of related subject areas – such as art history, cultural studies, film studies, geography, literature, music and philosophy. Themes that we anticipate papers addressing, include – but are not limited to – architectures of silence; silence, lateness and delay; silence as critique; the atmospherics of silence; images and silence; cultural practices of silence; and silence and the senses.

Keynote speakers

Gernot Böhme (Institute for Practical Philosophy, Darmstadt).

Paul Carter (Professor of Design (Urban), School of Architecture and Design/Design Research Institute, RMIT University, Melbourne).

Mark Dorrian (Forbes Chair in Architecture, Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh).

Alberto Pérez-Gómez (Saidye Rosner Bronfman Professor, School of Architecture, McGill University, Montreal).


Christos Kakalis & Jason O’ Shaughnessy


Proposals for papers should be sent by email to by Friday 12 February 2016. Proposals are to comprise an abstract (maximum 300 words) and a short biographical note (maximum 150 words), together with the author’s institutional address and full contact details.

Registration fees

University and college faculty 80GBP

Registered PhD students 40GBP

The cost of coffee, two lunches, and the symposium dinner is included in the registration fees.


An edited book will be developed from selected papers presented at the symposium.

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