Thinking about silence

shhhhThis is a general call out to anyone who reads this blog who might be interested in looking further into the therapeutic and educational possibilities of silence.

I’m interested in the idea of silence as a way to stimulate thought and practice in the way that Erin Manning talks about the thousand possibilities that exist for dancers before they finally resolve into this movement or that (Manning, 2007).  I’m also interested in its deliberate use as a postmodern strategy designed to leave problems unresolved as a way to keep open the possibility of thinking otherwise or a thousand alternative ‘lines of flight’ (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987).  And as an educational strategy akin to Jacques Ranciere’s notion of the Ignorant Schoolmaster that’s been important in recent years in ideas like inquiry-based learning and threshold concepts (Rancière, 1991; Meyer & Land, 2006).  Recently I came across it being used by two speech and language colleagues who use silence as a deliberate strategy to empower students (from primary school to university) who have been learnt to become docile in the face of authority (Zembylas, 2007).

It seems to me that physiotherapy practice and teaching is the exact opposite of silence.  Our curricula are so full of content, there’s no room for ambiguity and our practice is an exercise of problem-solving and achieving closure in the most efficient way possible.  Silence could then also be an interesting counter to the Enlightenment narrative of surety and control over nature, and might offer some support to practitioners who realise all-too-soon that their practice is far removed from the rational simplicity sold to them by health care textbooks, educators and practitioners.

Do any of you have any thoughts on this?  Anything to help expand some of this thinking?

(And if I don’t hear back from you, do I take your silence as a good thing?)


Deleuze, G, and F Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus — Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by B Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.

Manning, E. Relationscapes: Movement, Art, Philosophy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009.

Meyer, Jan, and Ray Land. Overcoming Barriers to Student Understanding: Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge. Taylor & Francis, 2006.

Rancière, Jacques. The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991.

Zembylas, Michalinos. Five Pedagogies, a Thousand Possibilities : Struggling for Hope and Transformation in Education. Rotterdam; Taipei: Sense Publishers, 2007.

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