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5 - Intimate Silences and Inequality: Noticing the Unsaid through Triangulation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 June 2019

Amy Jo Murray
University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Kevin Durrheim
University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
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Silence permeates intimate spaces and intimate relationships. Such intimate silences shape social action, which can establish and maintain fundamental inequalities. The unsaid can be difficult to identify, especially in such contexts. However, by showing how we “tiptoe” around particular topics, a convincing case for the unsaid can be made. Using two case studies, we show how triangulation can be used to make the unsaid noticeable. The first case study is situated in post-apartheid South African paid domestic labor, where dyadic research was used to reveal silences around the topics of black sexuality, male visitors, and employer monitoring. These silences work to maintain privileged white control over intimate black activities. The second case study occurs in the undocumented student movement in the United States, where a comparison between public utterances and individual interviews revealed an absence of talk around intimate partner violence within the public discourses of undocumented students. This absence works to keep inequalities around ongoing domestic violence among undocumented immigrants invisible and unaddressed. In both cases, it was only through multimethod research that the absences and dissonances across the data sets were noticed, allowing for new understandings of the issues and their fundamental inequalities.

Qualitative Studies of Silence
The Unsaid as Social Action
, pp. 89 - 106
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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