There is a growing recognition of the importance of attending to silences as active presences in social life. Contributing to anthropological approaches that move beyond seeing silences as suspicious, our project aims to explore silences as presences that can take narrative forms and can imply agency rather than disempowerment. We study the relationship between silence and verbal articulation at the intersection of anthropologies of affect, embodiment, memory and politics. Some of the questions we ask include: How does silence relate to speech or other forms of articulation? What are the effects of silences on individual and social bodies? How can silences be sensed and experienced viscerally? Can silence be a form of mediation/re-mediation? Can we talk about silence as a form of hauntology? What are the affective forces of silence across time and place? How are memories articulated in ways other than through language? When and how may silences imply agency? What different ways of listening may we need in order to ‘hear’ silences? By starting to address these questions together, we hope to contribute to a better understanding of the presences and effects of silence and reflect on the possibilities of attending to silences in our research.

We, Ana Dragojlovic (University of Melbourne) and Annemarie Samuels (Leiden University), started this cooperative project when we realized that we were both interested in similar questions about the place of silences in our ethnographic research projects. Rather than defining silence in advance, we would like to gather diverse ethnographic experiences with, and anthropological thoughts on, studying silence. The weblog started originally on, where we published blogposts between 2017 and 2019. In 2023, these posts were moved to the current location hosted by Leiden University. In the meantime, our collaborative work on the anthropology of silence has also been published in other venues, and we thank the many colleagues that have inspired us and offered helpful comments along the way. In 2021, we edited a special issue titled “Tracing Silences: Towards an Anthropology of the Unspoken and Unspeakable” in History and Anthropology. Next to our editorial preface, the special issues includes article contributions by Robert Weller, Carol Kidron, Evi Chatzipanagiotidou & Fiona Murphy, and ourselves, and an afterword by Byron Good. In 2023 this issue was published as an edited volume Tracing Silences (Routledge). In 2023, we contributed the entry ‘Silence’ to the Open Encyclopedia of Anthropology.

We have been happy to notice increasing attention to the topic of silences in the field of anthropology. We hope that the move of our weblog to the new host will also help to offer new inspiration to researchers in our field. We welcome the publication of new blogposts and warmly invite you to share an ethnographic story or anecdote, or a more reflective piece, on silence on our blog.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 706562


Ana Dragojlovic is an Associate Professor in Gender Studies and Insight Fellow at the Contemplative Studies Centre at the University of Melbourne. Her research intersects feminist, queer, decolonial and care studies and investigates the ways in which structural inequalities shape people’s experiences of everyday life. She is currently leading four interrelated projects: (i) modalities of care for intergenerational trauma and gendered violence (ii) intersectional feminist ethnography of mindfulness practices for personal growth (iii) contemplative practices and social change and (iv) decolonial memory activism. After receiving her PhD from the Australian National University, A/Prof Dragojlovic held postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Queensland and the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) in Leiden. She has held Visiting Fellow appointments at the Gender and Postcolonial Studies (Utrecht University); the Centre for Feminist Research, Goldsmiths (University of London); and the Department of Social Anthropology (University of Cambridge).

A/Prof Dragojlovic is the author of Beyond Bali: Subaltern Citizens and Post-Colonial Intimacy, co-author of Bodies and Suffering: Emotions and Relations of Care (the Alex Broom), co-editor of Gender, Violence, Power: Indonesia Across Time and Space, (with Kate McGregor and Hannah Loney), co-editor of Tracing Silences (with Annemarie Samuels), and co-editor of Queering Memory: Toward re-membering otherwise (with CQ Quinan).

Annemarie Samuels is an Associate Professor at the Leiden Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology. She is Principal Investigator of the ERC project Globalizing Palliative Care? A Multi-sited Ethnographic Study of Practices, Policies and Discourses of Care at the End of Life ( Her research interests include narrative, silence, disaster, HIV/AIDS, and end-of-life care, in Indonesia and beyond.

From January 2017 to December 2018 Annemarie was a Marie-Sklodowska Curie Global Fellow at Harvard University (2017) and Leiden University (2018) with the project The Power of Silence: A Medical Anthropological Approach to AIDS Care Narratives. She is editorial committee member of the Annual Review of Anthropology and of the BKI: Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Southeast Asia.

Annemarie is author of After the Tsunami: Disaster Narratives and the Remaking of Everyday Life in Aceh, Indonesia (University of Hawai’i Press 2019) and co-editor of Islam and the Limits of the State: Reconfigurations of Practice, Community, and Authority in Contemporary Aceh (Brill, 2015, with R. Michael Feener and David Kloos). Together with Ana Dragojlovic, she wrote the entry ‘Silence’ in the Open Encyclopedia of Anthropology (2023) and edited a special issue on silences in the journal History and Anthropology: ‘Tracing silences: towards an anthropology of the unspoken and unspeakable.’ Her article contribution to this special issue, ‘Strategies of silence in an age of transparency: Navigating HIV and visibility in Aceh, Indonesia’ was awarded honorable mention for the 2021 Stirling Prize for best article in psychological anthropology.


We are looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the anthropology of silence and warmly invite you to share your ethnographic experiences on our blog. Please send us an email if you have questions, suggestions or would like to contribute a blog post:

Ana Dragojlovic:

Annemarie Samuels: