Transcribing Culture
Writing Transcribing SilenceBlog Munoz-subtitles-writing_03Creative Writing

Book Lecture in Iowa City, Iowa
February 27 at 7 PM

Prairie Lights Bookstore
15 S. Dubuque St.
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This book is the first time I have brought together social science with creative work. In between an introduction that reviews several bodies of literature on silence and the unsaid and a conclusion that discusses reluctance in some areas of ethnography to talk about writing, or try to teach it, I offer 14 narratives written over more than 20 years. Some are fiction; others are memoir. Together, they aim to make the point that silence is the most powerful form of communication humans command. It can praise, condemn, sunder and bring together, make sense and confuse, in forms as short as microseconds and as long as decades. Transcribing Silence is about the power of silences people encounter as children and parents, at home and at work, as romantic partners and friends, as they make sense of life both within and across cultures.

From the Preface:

If at any time there should seem to be an expression unintelligible from one soul to another, it is best not to strive to interpret it in earthly language, but to wait for the soul to make itself understood … Words may be a thick and darksome veil of mystery between the soul and the truth which it seeks. Wretched were we, indeed, if we had no better means of communicating ourselves, no fairer garb in which to array our essential being, than these poor rags and tatters of Babel.

—Nathaniel Hawthorne

The first time I read this observation of Hawthorne’s I gasped aloud: No social scientist, he nonetheless put his finger on a key fact of communication. Someone who made his living with the written word observed that language is not enough for humans to understand themselves, each other, or the world around them.


Download a PDF of “Forbidden love,” an excerpt from Transcribing Silence.


“Muñoz challenges us to think and write in new ways about “the means, meanings, and consequences of leaving things unsaid” in relational life. Following an interdisciplinary synthesis of scholarship is a collection of compelling narratives that connect communication, identity, relationships, and culture. Individual stories illumine the unsaid about a wide range of important topics, including death, family, mentoring, sexism, intercultural interaction, romance, and stigma. The eloquent stories are accompanied by framing and questions that invite readers to reflect on these examples and also to observe their own stories more closely. The volume concludes with a thought-provoking reflection on ethnographic writing. I look forward to discussing this text with my students in interpersonal communication and research methods [courses].”

—Daena Goldsmith, Lewis and Clark College

“I am in awe of Kristine Muñoz’s twenty-year project of understanding and illuminating what silence means and what it does in different contexts and cultures. Some of the finest ethnographic and fictional pieces rest between her insightful review of the research and theories of silence and her valuable comments on the craft of ethnography, including ethnographers silence about how they do their writing.”

—Laurel Richardson, Ohio State University (Emerita)

“With Transcribing Silence, Kristine Muñoz gives us a powerful, genre-breaking book. It’s a moving memoir about marriage, family, and an academic life; a set of stories exploring relationally difficult moments; an introduction to social science research about silence and the unsayable; a text with wonderful discussion questions; and an experienced author’s suggestions about how to make the identity of “writer” one’s own.”

—Karen Tracy, University of Colorado

To Purchase

Transcribing Silence is available from Left Coast Press.

Transcribing Silence is available from
Left Coast Press.


Kristine Muñoz

Curriculum Vitae




Interpersonal Communication