Hinged Dialogues and Heteroglossic Silence: Ritual Speech in Spiritualism

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    Abstract

    Bakhtin observed that language is inherently dialogic as speakers respond to past utterances and anticipate future ones. Yet Bakhtin also noted that speakers can engage in monologic projects in attempts to unify voices and accents in the service of a single “carrier,” such as God or nation. I argue that monologism and dialogism are copresent tendencies in speech and that they can be analyzed productively in relation to a third term, “silence,” which can be dialogic as well as monologic. To attend to silence, it becomes necessary to examine monologically and dialogically oriented participant structures, pulling language ideologies and practices into the same analytical frame. I analyze the relationships between monologism and monologue, dialogism and dialogue, and silence in ritual speech at Spiritualist services. At these events, audience members silently generate healing energy, and mediums construct what I call “hinged dialogues” in which they have largely silent conversations with spirit figures and connect these conversations with living audience members who are compelled to respond in constrained but dialogically productive ways
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-22
    JournalCurrent Anthropology
    Volume65
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2024

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