How can uncomfortable feelings that seem to prevent us from engaging in political discussion actually aid the cause of resistance to injustice and violence? Unhappy Silences offers a strikingly innovative answer: thoughtful consideration of reactions such as shame, confusion and loneliness can liberate our voices and deepen decision-making. Set in the context of feminist, antiracist, disability rights, LGBT and similar movements of the past sixty years, Berenice Malka Fisher weaves together her distinctive analysis, insights from a wide range of thinkers, and stories based on her own and other women’s activist experiences. The result is a study rich in theory and practice.
The capacity to talk fully and effectively with each other is crucial to the defense of our imperiled democracies. Unhappy Silences urges us not only to make our progressive movements more inclusive of diverse people but also—by listening to our silences—to make our discussions more inclusive of different ideas and options for action.
Berenice Malka Fisher, professor emerita at New York University, was born in Chicago during the Great Depression. Her educational background includes an MA in Philosophy, a PhD in Education and research informed by sociology and history. With this interdisciplinary background and her commitment from the 1950s on to making a life as “an independent woman,” she was well primed to teach and publish in the emerging field of women’s studies.
In the early 1970s, she encountered the growing feminist movement, which provided an enduring context for her activism. Her popular and academic feminist writing prepared the ground for her award-winning book, No Angel in the Classroom: Teaching Through Feminist Discourse. In addition to participating in various peace and justice causes, she has demonstrated with the peace group Women in Black-Union Square for about fifteen years and performed with a lesbian theater ensemble, Shock of Grey, for almost twenty.