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Intimate Uncertainties

Ethnographic Explorations of Moral Economies across Europe

Sabine Strasser and Luisa Piart

For this special issue we are bringing together six ethnographic cases of intimate uncertainties that are situated within different regimes of reproduction, healthcare and borders in and beyond Europe. These ethnographic inquiries exemplify unprecedented settings of moral ir/responsibility shaping the intimate on different scales and in various sites of power (agencies, clinics, borderlands). These uncertainties in times of major transitions from old to new moral orders, from industrial to postindustrial, from welfare to austerity spark off a renewed debate on moral economy. The authors of these contributions all focus the theoretical lens of moral economy squarely onto the intimate.

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Marco Giuliani and Erik Jones

The year 2009 was a period of uncertainty, during which the Italian

political world appeared to be floundering and in need of a compass.

As evidenced by the chronological overview, many events continued

to beleaguer the political and social life in Italy. Some, such as the

result of the European elections and the escalation of the economic

crisis and its repercussions, were foreseen or, in any case, predictable.

Others, including the numerous scandals and irregularities that

tarnished the political year, continuously feeding the mass media with

distractions and nurturing the public debate with less then edifying

themes, were less expected.

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Introduction

Infrastructures of Certainty and Doubt

Matthew Carey and Morten Axel Pedersen

Debates surrounding notions of certainty and conviction and, conversely, of doubt, uncertainty and opacity have proved to be some of the liveliest and most anthropologically productive of recent years. The contention that a kernel of uncertainty

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Living with Uncertainty

Indefinite Immigration Detention

Melanie Griffiths

Immigration detention is a central tenet of the British government’s response to immigration but remains under-theorised in academia. This article uses testimonies drawn from anthropological research conducted with detainees at an Immigration Removal Centre to examine lived experiences of immigration detention and explore the relationships between detainees and the British state. It suggests that despite being a space of extreme control (both in terms of legislation and daily practice), immigration detention is beset with uncertainty and confusion. Examples are given of chronic instability in relation to mobility, violent ‘incidents’, time frames and access to information. The article examines the repercussions of such instability on individuals and coping strategies employed. It argues that immigration detainees live in a context of continual crisis, in which profound uncertainty becomes normalised. This disorder should be understood as a technique of power, with governance through uncertainty constructing certain immigrants as expendable, transient and ultimately, deportable.

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Introduction

Risks, Ruptures and Uncertainties

Kirsten W. Endres and Maria Six-Hohenbalken

Asia's ongoing economic transformation has created a variety of unexpected ruptures, discontinuities and opportunities in the lives of local citizens across the region. The introduction to this special section of the journal frames the contributions that follow with a brief review of current scholarly discussions regarding the interrelated concepts of crisis, risk and uncertainty. It then provides an overview of the articles in this collection and highlights the ways in which they contribute to an understanding of local responses to, and strategies for coping with, risk and uncertainty as multidimensional, interwoven aspects of their daily lives, guided by social, economic and moral considerations.

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Introduction

Flight and Exile—Uncertainty in the Context of Conflict-Induced Displacement

Cindy Horst and Katarzyna Grabska

This introduction addresses the ways in which flight and exile create particular types of uncertainty, including both radical and protracted, in people's lives. We argue that the concept of uncertainty, in its meaning of imperfect knowledge and the unpredictability of the future, is central to studies that theorize conflict-induced displacement, transit, and refugeeness. We start with an exploration of the spatial and temporal aspects of uncertainty in situations of displacement, and within that we discuss how uncertainty functions as a governing mechanism. We then analyze the ways that refugees and those internally displaced navigate situations of radical and protracted uncertainty. This article and those that follow in this special issue suggest that in our analysis of conflict-induced displacement, we must understand uncertainty rather than certainty as the norm.

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'It's Got to Be the Patient's Decision'

Practicing Shared Decision-making in the U.K. Renal Units

Ikumi Okamoto

In modern medicine, patient choice and involvement in treatment decision-making are increasingly recognised as an important issue in improving the quality of healthcare, and in recent years the concept of shared decision-making has attracted attention as a new approach in the medical encounter. This model is particularly appropriate in life-threatening situations in which no best treatment exists and there are trade-offs between benefits and risk of available treatments. In this article, I demonstrate how clinical uncertainty makes shared decision-making difficult in practice, using the case of elderly patients with end-stage renal failure based on data collected by interviewing renal healthcare professionals in the U.K. I then propose the possibility of 'patient choice' becoming a burden for some elderly patients and the institutionalisation of shared decision-making, and discuss the importance of building a good relationship between healthcare professionals and patients to facilitate shared decision-making.

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Facing bureaucratic uncertainty in the Bolsa Família Program

Clientelism beyond reciprocity and economic rationality

Flávio Eiró and Martijn Koster

Clientelism is often analyzed along lines of moral values and reciprocity or an economic rationality. This article, instead, moves beyond this dichotomy and shows how both frameworks coexist and become entwined. Based on ethnographic research in a city in the Brazilian Northeast, it analyzes how the anti-poverty Bolsa Família Program and its bureaucracy are entangled with electoral politics and clientelism. We show how the program’s beneficiaries engage in clientelist relationships and exchanges to deal with structural precariousness and bureaucratic uncertainty. Contributing to understanding the complexity of clientelism, our analysis demonstrates how they, in their assessment of and dealing with political candidates, employ the frames of reference of both reciprocity and economic rationality in such a way that they act as a “counterpoint” to each other.

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Ignoring Symptoms

The Process of Normalising Sensory Experiences after Cancer

Tone Seppola-Edvardsen and Mette Bech Risør

’ ideas about symptoms after treatment were based on uncertainty. The participants expressed uncertainty about what symptoms to look for. They were unsure about what had actually been the symptoms of cancer before diagnosis. Others got a diagnosis after a

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Monumental Suspension

Art, Infrastructure, and Eduardo Chillida's Unbuilt Monument to Tolerance

Isaac Marrero-Guillamón

an unbuilt dam in Thailand that looms large in the life of the villages waiting to be displaced. Land speculation, investment deferrals, extreme anxiety, and enhanced solidarity were some of the effects of the uncertainty and anticipation associated