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Vigilance: On Conflict, Social Invisibility, and Negative Potentiality

Henrik Vigh

Keywords: COMPARISON; INSECURITY; NEGATIVE POTENTIALITY; SOCIAL INVISIBILITY; UNCERTAINTY; VIOLENCE

Abstract

This article analyzes the relationship between conflict, social invisibility, and negative potentiality. Taking its empirical point of departure in fieldwork conducted in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, it illuminates the manner in which people orient themselves toward precarious prospects and potentialities. Little attention has been paid to the orientational effects generated by long-term conflict—that is, the way that violence, as an underlying possibility, an imagined oncoming event, influences social life. Moving from the empirical to the theoretical, and from the specific to the general, the article compares two areas of conflict and orientation toward negative potentiality before moving on to a more general discussion of invisibility and potentiality in social life and theory.

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