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Ruth Kitchen

For Sartre, shame is not an ethical but an ontological experience. With this in mind, the article examines the philosophical connection between shame and ambiguity through analysis of the experiences of abortion and the Nazi Occupation. The article demonstrates how Beauvoir develops Sartre's ontological notion of shame into an ethical philosophy of ambiguity as a result of wartime experiences. It demonstrates how encounters with shame, abortion, ambiguity and Occupation life in Beauvoir's 1945 novel Le sang des autres elucidate and are developed by Sartre and Beauvoir's philosophies of shame and ambiguity. The paper proposes that Sartre's and Beauvoir's thought was shaped by living through the Nazi Occupation and reveals how the memory of wartime shame is activated in contemporary ethical dilemmas in later literary works of both writers.

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John Gillespie

This overview of Sartre's theater within the context of the symposium focuses on the inherent ambiguities of his theory and practice. His plays, as committed literature, are not always successful in their pedagogical intention of changing the minds of his audiences. On the one hand, he seeks to provide universal situations with which everyone can collectively identify, and on the other he wishes to convince them of the value of freedom and confront them with problems and conflicts they must resolve for themselves. These spectators then exercise that freedom by taking ideological viewpoints that are in conflict with those of the plays. Moreover, the plays are often complex and ambiguous, and set far from a contemporary French context, thus demanding a certain sophistication of interpretation. Sartre's skill as a dramatist is to write plays that engage the public in debates about the key questions of the day, even though, because of his open approach, he does not always succeed in changing their minds.

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Guy Ziv

This article argues that Israel's policy of nuclear ambiguity, which has recently come under fire due to unfolding events in the Middle East, has played a critical role in the Arab world's strategic calculus vis-à-vis Israel. It has convinced Arab leaders of Israel's military superiority, putting an end to their efforts to annihilate the Jewish state. At the same time, it has shielded them from public pressure to become nuclear powers themselves. Indeed, Arab leaders have, in practice, reconciled themselves to Israel's existence, creating the possibility for resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict through peace diplomacy. Israel would be mistaken, I argue, to abandon its doctrine of nuclear ambiguity, a move that could accelerate nuclear proliferation in the region, bring about a pre-emptive attack on Israel's nuclear facilities, and harm US-Israeli relations.

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‘Burying the ANC’

Post-apartheid Ambiguities at the University of Limpopo, South Africa

Bjarke Oxlund

Based on an in-depth analysis of the events that took place during a single day at the University of Limpopo, this article makes connections between current and past events in arguing that post-apartheid South Africa is underpinned by several layers of ambiguity. At one level the article seeks to demonstrate the continuing relevance of situational analysis as a research paradigm, while at another level it attempts to provide a fresh look at the dominant cleavage in South African society that was identified by Max Gluckman in 1940. Drawing on a mock funeral held for government-aligned student organizations in October 2006, which revealed strains and uncertainties in South Africa's post-apartheid society, the intent is to show how the government's failure to secure service delivery has created new lines of contestation.

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"You’re a Trickster”

Mockery, Egalitarianism, and Uncertainty in Northeastern Namibia

Megan Laws

The trickster has held a prominent place in the study of folklore, as much as it has been central to anthropological understandings of egalitarianism. In both, the trickster embodies an insoluble tension between the repressed, amoral desires of the individual and the moral demands of social life. This tension, so it goes, is visible in the ambiguity of the figure—a protean indeterminate being, neither good nor bad. Among the Jú|’hoànsi of northeastern Namibia, the trickster is similarly ambiguous. The figure conveys not a clash of values, but rather the doubt and uncertainty people feel toward those with whom they share resources, or about different ways of sharing and how they might relate to one another. This article approaches such uncertainty through a focus on the mocking phrase “you’re a trickster” and the moral discourses that accompany it.

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Papering Over the Gaps

Documents, Infrastructure and Political Experimentation in Highland Peru

Annabel Pinker

This article tracks the political effects of documents produced in relation to a public infrastructure project in the Peruvian Andes. By contrast with the recent focus on bureaucratic documents as aesthetic artefacts and instances of institutional form, I attend to the political processes enacted through project papers, exploring how their relational, material, affective and referential dimensions opened up spaces of political experimentation. In particular, I suggest that the power of documents to mediate the regulatory ambiguities incurred by Peru's ongoing decentralization lies partly in their capacity to espouse normative formality whilst always hinting at the possibility of its undoing.

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Andrew Ryder

Sartre's play Les Mouches (The Flies), first performed in 1943 under German occupation, has long been controversial. While intended to encourage resistance against the Nazis, its approval by the censor indicates that the regime did not recognize the play as a threat. Further, its apparently violent and solitary themes have been read as irresponsible or apolitical. For these reasons, the play has been characterized as ambiguous or worse. Sartre himself later saw it as overemphasizing individual autonomy, and in the view of one critic, it conveys an “existentialist fascism.” In response to this reading, it is necessary to attend to the elements of the play that already emphasize duty to society. From this perspective, the play can be seen as anticipating the concern with collective responsibility usually associated with the later Sartre of the 1960s. More than this, the play's apparent “ambiguity” can be found to exemplify a didacticism that is much more complex than sometimes attributed to Sartre. It is not only an exhortation about ethical responsibility, but also a performance of the difficulties attendant to that duty.

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Olaf Zenker

This article takes as its starting point a peculiar land claim within the ongoing South African land restitution process – more specifically, the legal and administrative technicalities that allowed for the implosion of the accompanying court case in the Land Claims Court – to open up a space for reflection on the ambiguous nature of state bureaucracies as ambiguity-reducing machines. Tracing the specificities of bureaucratic attempts at foreclosing ambiguities and insufficiencies in state practice, I show how a reorientation towards the new public goods of 'service delivery', 'transparency' and 'accountability' brought about a pronounced regime of performance indicators and de-judicialized bureaucratic flexibility. Demonstrating how these attempts to reduce ambiguities created new zones of ambiguity and unaccountability of their own, I argue for a post-Weberian analysis of the path-dependent realities of 'bureaucratic authority' to help us understand the seemingly arbitrary structural violence that state bureaucracies often enact.

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Ethnicity without labels?

Ambiguity and excess in “postethnic” Rwanda

Laura Eramian

Following the 1994 genocide, the government of Rwanda embarked on a “deethnicization” campaign to outlaw Tutsi, Hutu, and Twa labels and replace them with a pan-Rwandan national identity. Since then, to use ethnic labels means risking accusations of “divisionism” or perpetuating ethnic schisms. Based on one year of ethnographic fieldwork in the university town of Butare, I argue that the absence of ethnic labels produces practical interpretive problems for Rwandans because of the excess of possible ways of interpreting what people mean when they evaluate each other's conduct in everyday talk. I trace the historical entanglement of ethnicity with class, rural/urban, occupational, and moral distinctions such that the content of ethnic stereotypes can be evoked even without ethnic labels. In so doing, I aim to enrich understandings of both the power and danger inherent in the ambiguous place of ethnicity in Rwanda's “postethnic” moment.

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Values at Work

Ambivalent Situations and Human Resource Embarrassment

Jakob Krause-Jensen

The Manchester School brought with it a fundamental methodological heritage that continues to be generally relevant today and may be particularly pertinent to the study of business organizations, a field often described by narrow instrumentalism and an implicitly management-centric perspective. In this article, through an ethnography of the Human Resource Department of the Danish firm Bang & Olufsen, I argue that the legacy of the Manchester School can be used as an analytical vantage point to open up a rich field of inquiry. I further suggest that we need to move beyond both managerialism and Manchester in order to analyze adequately the pervasive ambiguity in the experience of consultants working as middlemen in value-based corporations.