Academic journal article JCT (Online)

The Other Side of Silence: The Look of Separation

Academic journal article JCT (Online)

The Other Side of Silence: The Look of Separation

Article excerpt

Silence...

- is golden

- has the loudest voice

- is the most powerful scream

- is an answer to anger

- is also speech

- is a weapon

- is the space in-between

- is a counter narrative

Rhetorical silence...

- is a concealed narrative

- is dialogue in examination

- is a response to uncertainty

- is an influential practice

- is speech 's parallel dimension

- is the art of tone and timing

- speaks in hushed tunes

- is a communicative tool

AS A NEWLY MINTED tenure-track faculty member I had been asked to serve on a search .committee to fill a departmental vacancy at a private university in the South. The committee was charged with the responsibility of completing the initial paper screenings, phone interviews, and arranging the timelines for the onsite interviews of qualified candidates. We met routinely to discuss the merits and shortcomings of the various applicants based on their submitted packets. After narrowing the pool of candidates, based on their paper proxies, the committee arranged phone interviews with a select number of qualified applicants. At this point the process took, what I believe to be, an interesting turn. No longer simply a set of neatly stapled sheets of paper, the candidates were now voiced selves. A level of cognitive awareness had replaced the vagueness of impersonality. Perceptions, interpretations, assumptions, and experiential expectations were brought into play by the insertion of voice.

Voice also prompted theoretical and philosophical connections made through the interpretation of situational intonations, insinuations, references, and the appropriate use of idiomatic expressions. Listening just below the noise (LeClaire, 2009) of the formality of search committee business and amidst the din of diverse professional voices, I discovered what I believed to be a line of association based in similar research interests, experiential correlations and philosophical associations with one of the applicants. The revealed points of entry created the possibility to make a professional and personal connection. Through the connection, prompted by voice, we dared to bridge the divide of initial human contact- contact often characterized by uncertainty, awkwardness, anxiety, ignorance, and silent observation. Instead, we made the decision to push past the awkward phase often associated with the process of establishing a new association. We agreed to continue to create the space necessary to further develop the fledgling professional conversation.

Time constraints, the dailiness of life, and distance moved the conversation to the back and forth of emails. Once under the obscurity of cyberspace, the relationship was once again defined as unvoiced and impersonal. As our personal voices had been silenced, the written word became the privileged format of communication. The written word, a standardized tool of association, implies the use of universally accepted social, professional, and communicative norms. The set of norms, when applied to representatives of the tower of academe, also implies taken-for-granted, or common, experiential, educative, professional, as well as cultural experiences. The communicative expectations were met online and the professional relationship was provided the requisite space to continue its development. Despite the silencing of voices and a level of anonymity characterized by online communication, an excitement about our professional connection ensued. We worked diligently, over time, to understand one another's professionally situated experience. Our jointly crafted professional dialogue helped us to develop a common academic vocabulary which we used to explore research questions, theories, methodologies, and possible publication agendas. An appreciation of our individually situated research expertise and perceived personal value helped us to envision a number of possible outcomes which would serve to jointly enhance our professional careers. …

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