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The Other of Dialogue: Opening Silences of the Dumb Foreigner1

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This paper is not about the silence of the other. Neither is it a phenomenological, hermeneutical, political, aesthetical or ethnographical account of silence taken as a form of existential practice. It concerns an ethics. It explores, rather than an ethics of semiotic care or recognition, an ethical structure, possibility or resources of silence, the still auditory, disclosed in the disrelational ontology of language: a richness and complexity of that dramatic tension, the postlapsarian interplay between fallen time and fallen language; the key question is how not to sanitise, fetishise and economise on the dialogic inadequacy of the other, of the dumb foreigner in us. Silence, thus approached as a universal speech act, as the inclusive preclusion of the word across time, space and cultures, is more specific, precise and resonant than quietude or muteness, the absence or eradication of sounds. Silence, thus understood, is then not a mystified non-language, a solipsistic disproof or disqualification of mediated communication but the language that is forever foreign. The originary force of silence, its speechless power is an evolutionary index to ethical dialogue, or rather dialogue as an ethical act. We, of we-are-the-world, should be able to communicate not in spite of, but through, silence.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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