Summary of “To Give up on Words”: Silence in Western Apache Culture

In “’to Give up on Words’: Silence in Western Apache Culture” by Keith H. Bascco, the author uses various social situations to defend his hypothesis. Through his research, Bascco illustrates that silences in Western Apache culture is directly associated with social situations in which participants perceive their relationships with another to be ambiguous.  He, then, argues that refraining from speech can be seen in other cultures. 

Bascco uses six types of social contexts where silence is often preferred. The first is meeting with strangers. Verbal reticence is often an approach used to examine the stranger from a distance and determine whether or not you would like to establish a friendship. The second situation is courting, where in the initial stages of courtship, the couples are reluctance to speak because of a sense of unfamiliarity. The third social context is children coming home after a long absence from home.  There’s a prolonged period of silences after the reunion because parents are still unsure of how much the child might have changed during their absence. The fourth example that the author provides is when getting cussed out. Those who are getting cursed at refrain from speech because of the awareness that individuals that are enraged are often considered irrational or crazy. Because of the assumption that the enraged person is temporarily crazy and unreasonable, silence is used instead of reasoning with the person.  The fifth situation being with people who are sad. Three explanations for why silence is preferred around someone who is grieving a loss is that speaking requires a large amount of physical effort, verbal communication can seem unnecessary, and intense grief can lead to intense rage. The final example is being with someone for whom they sing. During the singing process, the patient is brought into contact with a supernatural force and it is believed that silence is needed.

Overall, something that was observed in all of the situations that were described is silence is a common approach used during ambitious moments. The author makes this argument to illustrate that just like Indian societies of the American Southwest, Western Apache cultures also experience silence behavior. By quoting Priscilla Mowrer, “who inquired into the situational features of Navajo silence behavior in the vicinity of Tuba City on the Navajo Reservation in east-central Arizona”, Bascco portrayed the similarities between the types of social contexts in which Navajos and western Apaches refrain from speech (227). Sometimes when Westerns analyze other cultures and their interactions with one another, they can view them as inferior and uneducated. I believe Bascco decided to make this argument to illustrate that Western culture also experience moments of silences that aren’t that much different from other cultures. I feel that Bascco provided sufficient evidences that was very clear and supported his hypothesis.  

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