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Jeroen P. van der Sluijs

Uncertainty complexity and dissent make climate change hard to tackle with normal scientific procedures. In a post-normal perspective the normal science task of "getting the facts right" is still regarded as necessary but no longer as fully feasible nor as sufficient to interface science and policy. It needs to be complemented with a task of exploring the relevance of deep uncertainty and ignorance that limit our ability to establish objective, reliable, and valid facts. This article explores the implications of this notion for the climate science policy interface. According to its political configuration the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) adopted a "speaking consensus to power" approach that sees uncertainty and dissent as a problematic lack of unequivocalness (multiple contradictory truths that need to be mediated into a consensus). This approach can be distinguished from two other interface strategies: the "speaking truth to power approach," seeing uncertainties as a temporary lack of perfection in the knowledge (truth with error bars) and the "working deliberatively within imperfections" approach, accepting uncertainty and scientific dissent as facts of life (irreducible ignorance) of which the policy relevance needs be explored explicitly. The article recommends more openness for dissent and explicit reflection on ignorance in IPCC process and reporting.

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Singularity and Uncertainty

Counter-Ethics of Gender and Sexuality in an Indian Dream Analysis

Sarah Pinto

Shahzia Sikander’s video installation Gopi Contagion made similar incursions for the next month, overtaking Times Square’s false skies with images of uncertainty – masses in loose coordination, strange stases of circular movement. In this and Sikander

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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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Governing through Uncertainty

Experiences of Being a Refugee in Turkey as a Country for Temporary Asylum

Kristen Sarah Biehl

This article addresses the question of how to theorize the relation between uncertainty and governmentality with regard to displacement and its consequences. It explores the experiences of asylum seekers in Turkey and the bureaucratic processes of refugee status determination, local dispersal, and third country resettlement, illustrating two main points throughout. First, 'protracted uncertainty', characterized by indefinite waiting, limited knowledge, and unpredictable legal status, is a central element of the experience of being an asylum seeker in Turkey. Second, this uncertainty serves to demobilize, contain, and criminalize asylum seekers through the production of protracted uncertainty, which in turn is normalized as a necessity of bureaucracy and/or security. The article invites readers to question the governmentalities of asylum and border regimes that not only discipline refugees' everyday movements but also determine the uncertainty of 'refugeeness'.

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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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The Workings of Uncertainty

Interrogating Cases on Refugees in Sweden

Karin Norman

In this essay, two cases are constructed in order to highlight the seemingly distinct yet intertwined problems of how realities shape the construction of a case and how the constitution of a field in time and space, as well as experiences of fieldwork, contribute to the formation of a case. The ethnographic material described concerns two different social realities of Kosovo Albanian refugees in Sweden and their confrontation with Swedish bureaucracy and the uncertainties to which this gives rise, both for the refugees and the anthropologist. A main aim is to explore the blurred line between the apt illustration and the extended case in relation to processes of bureaucratization and, in turn, the implications such processes have for the way in which the field is circumscribed and conceptualized.

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The Intimate Uncertainties of Kidney Care

Moral Economy and Treatment Regimes in Comparative Perspective

Ciara Kierans

Today the social and material situations of sick bodies are increasingly and intimately bound up with the variable moral economies of national healthcare systems in uncertain and contrastive ways. I approach these ‘intimate uncertainties’ comparatively and methodologically by drawing on ethnographic fieldwork on transplant medicine in Mexico in order to interrogate European healthcare, specifically the UK. The UK National Health Service is an exemplary site of moral economy, one that the Mexican case appears to stand in stark contrast to. However, as I show, the uncertainties we see at work in Mexico enable us to seek them out in the UK too, particularly those generated at the nexus of the state, failing organs and new strategies for healthcare rationing. The article traces the gendered and socioeconomic inequalities, which follow from these shifts, while offering a critique of analyses that take the European and North American experience as methodologically foundational.

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Hendrik Paasche, Katja Paasche and Peter Dietrich

Geoscientists invest significant effort to cope with uncertainty in Earth system observation and modeling. While general discussions exist about uncertainty and risk communication, judgment and decision-making, and science communication with regard to Earth sciences, in this article, we tackle uncertainty from the perspective of Earth science practitioners. We argue different scientific methodologies must be used to recognize all types of uncertainty inherent to a scientific finding. Following a discovery science methodology results in greater potential for the quantification of uncertainty associated to scientific findings than staying inside hypothesis-driven science methodology, as is common practice. Enabling improved uncertainty quantification could relax debates about risk communication and decision-making since it reduces the room for personality traits when communicating scientific findings.

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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.