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Managing Secrecy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-163
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Communication
Published6 Jan 2016
EventInternational Communications Association Annual Conference - Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Duration: 26 May 201531 May 2015


  • 4399_18374_1_PB

    4399_18374_1_PB.pdf, 260 KB, application/pdf

    Uploaded date:12 Jan 2016

    Version:Final published version

    Licence:CC BY-NC-ND

King's Authors


As many anthropologists and sociologists have long argued, understanding the meaning and place of secrets is central to an adequate representation of society. This article extends previous accounts of secrecy in social, governmental and organizational settings to configure secrecy as one form of visibility management among others. Doing so helps to remove the secret from a post-Enlightenment value system that deems secrets as bad and openness as good. Once secrecy itself is seen as a neutral phenomenon, we can focus, rather, on the politicality or ethics of any particular distribution of the visible, sayable, and knowable as well as the conditions that underpin a regime of visuality.

Alongside understanding the work secrecy performs in contemporary society, this article argues that we can also seek inspiration from the secret as a methodological tool and political tactic. Moving beyond the claim to privacy, a claim that has lost bite in this era of state and consumer dataveillance, a ‘right to opacity’ – the right to not be transparent, legible, seen - might open up an experience of subjectivity, responsibility and even liberty beyond the circumscribed demands of the current political and technological management of visibilities.

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