Open Secrets and Knowing Smiles

Given the importance of informal ways of getting things done in postsocialist societies, research into the field of unwritten rules and informal practices has been slow to develop. In studying such rules and practices, the researcher often encounters skepticism or hostility stemming from the ways in which people relate to tacit agreements, or else she or he is greeted by an ambivalent smile of complicity—a knowing smile. This article draws a connection between knowing smiles and open secrets and argues that these notions illuminate a great deal about how the “grey areas” of social life function. It also suggests that such seemingly trivial aspects of everyday life can reveal profound features of social institutions and point in the direction of innovative research.

Ledeneva, A. (2011). Open Secrets and Knowing Smiles. East European Politics & Societies, 25(4), 720-736.