Herzfeld, Michael. 2009. “The Performance of Secrecy: Domesticity and Privacy in Public Spaces.” Semiotica 2009 (175) (January). doi:10.1515/semi.2009.044.
Secrecy, paradoxically, is a social fact; as such, it must be performed in order to be realized. This article is a programmatic attempt to explore the semiotics of secrecy as revealed through the interaction of architectonics, spatiality, and social interaction. Gestural secretiveness reproduces socially sanctioned patterns of concealment also embodied in the built environment; these social dimensions also inform local interpretations of legal devices designed to guarantee privacy. On the international stage, moreover, they are transformed into devices for the concealment of potential national embarrassments. As the author demonstrates using materials from Greece, Italy, and Thailand, the practical effects of secrecy — a more flexible construct than the dichotomy of public and private — are revealingly inscribed, at various concentric levels of social identification, on the material landscape of inhabited space, and represent a necessary dimension of adapting urban structures to a human scale.