In the midst of a busy Copenhagen neighbourhood the exclamation ‘SILENCIO’ is written on a wall. Taking up much space, the writing can be seen from afar. For years the city council’s graffiti squad has for some reason decided to leave this particular piece alone. One can only speculate if the word is meant as an imperative. Passing the wall every day, it makes me smile. The silencing effect of the exclamation is at best a reminder that things can be different. In the street, cars, people, trucks and shopkeepers go about their business. Every hour the bell from a nearby school rings through the hustle and bustle. Children are playing in the schoolyard. Whenever they get the chance, they cross the street in large and noisy groups to buy candy bars for lunch. A competing bell from the church on the other corner makes people hurry in the morning and again in the evening. An extended melody from the church tower is underlining the eight o’clock hour in the morning as particularly important – it’s time to go to work!

How to Cite

Kjær, S. H., (2005) “Silence”, Ethnologia Europaea 35(1), 141-148. doi:

Publisher Notes

  • This article was previously published by Museum Tusculanum Press.


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Sarah Holst Kjær (Stockholm University)



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