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Adele Webb

Public ambivalence towards democracy has come under increasing scrutiny. It is a mood registered perhaps most clearly in the fact populist figures, from Trump to Orbàn to Duterte, appear to carry strong appeal despite the fact, or perhaps because of the fact, they pose a threat to democratic institutions and processes of governance. Are ambivalent citizens the grave threat to democracy they are often portrayed to be in media and academic discourse on populism? In this article, I contend that citizens’ ambivalence about democracy is a more complex, spirited and volitional idea than is acknowledged in the current discussion of populism. Drawing on psychoanalysis and critical social thought, I embrace a conception of citizens’ ambivalence in a democracy as both immanent and desirable. I argue ambivalence can be a form of participation in democracy that is crucial to safeguarding its future.

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Alienation, Ambivalence and Identity

Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words

Mohammad Shafiqul Islam

Jhumpa Lahiri’s latest book, In Other Words, is an autobiographical text that highlights the author’s journey to a new land and language. She grows up in America, communicates in Bengali with her parents during her early childhood and uses English in school; a sense of ambivalence about language dawns in her at this time. Her parents insist that Bengali be a dominant language in her life, but she falls in love with English, which later becomes her own language and the medium of her literary writing. During her doctoral studies, she feels an impulse to learn Italian and desperately strives to speak and write in that language. In Other Words, originally written in Italian, is the ultimate outcome of her aspirations to learn Italian. As the author switches from one language to another, from Bengali to English, and then from English to Italian, she forms an ambivalent sense of separation and proximity. This article seeks to explore Lahiri’s love for language, her sense of alienation and belonging, loss and achievement, and her search for identity and metamorphosis.

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Fred Reno

Critics question the articulation between Césaire's immense literary works and his comparatively modest political legacy. They contend that the ferociousness of his case against slavery and colonialism clashes with the tepid way in which he tiptoed the Martinican people onto its political route, cautiously steering clear of the full-fledged self-rule option. The case I am making in this paper is that it would be terribly misleading, let alone unfair, to assume that Césaire was all lip-service, La Lettre à Maurice Thorez being a case in point. Rather, Césaire's political genius is to have managed to take his ideals down a few pegs to be in tune with the people, because he knew as a poet that emancipation is not a place to reach but a way to walk. In that respect, Césaire implemented what I have come to conceptualize as "dependence-resource."

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Ronald E. Santoni

In this article, I maintain that (1) Sartre's views on violence are ambivalent and (2) Sartre sometimes justifies violence. More specifically, I attempt to establish the misreadings by Michael Fleming and Marguerite LaCaze (on whom Fleming relies) of both my writing and Sartre's in these regards. Each, by arguing that, for Sartre, violence is “sometimes acceptable” or “functionally necessary” or “understandable,” but not morally justifiable, is ignoring Sartre's tendency at times to skirt the issue of justifiability by employing “weasel words” that amount to justification. Both critics seem to forget that Sartre says that, on occasion, violence “could be called just” (qu'on pourrait appeler juste), especially in conditions of last resort defense against oppression, in which case violence, according to Sartre, can restore and regenerate the oppressed. Further, although I acknowledge Fleming's noteworthy emphasis on “structural violence,” I offer considerable counterevidence against his (and LaCaze's) claim that I ignore or slight Sartre's concern for it. I argue, on Sartrean grounds, against his (and Zizek's) claim that structural violence can be purely objective. Finally, I contend that in arguing that Sartre's views are not strictly ambivalent, Fleming, following LaCaze, makes the error of equating “consistency” with not being ambivalent.

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David, Émile

Les ambivalences de l’identité juive de Durkheim

Matthieu Béra

This is based on research that has discovered crucial, hitherto unknown biographical information. First, I review the theories of authors who helped to generate the whole 'affair' of Durkheim's two pre-names, most often in seeing it as a way to interrogate his relation with Judaism. Next, I discuss how the issue comes with elements that are incomplete or inexact. It is then to present new evidence of Durkheim's ambivalence and changing attitude towards his first, identifiably Jewish pre-name. The census records during his time at Bordeaux show that he registered himself as 'David' in 1891 and 1896, but abandoned this and switched to 'Émile' in 1901. Accordingly, I examine possible interpretations of the change, in terms of the political context of the Dreyfus Affair, events in his family life, his institutional position, his growing reputation, and a programme of research in which he resolved on a scientific treatment of religion.

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Sanne van der Hout and Martin Drenthen

Scientists need narrative structures, metaphors, and images to explain and legitimize research practices that are usually described in abstract and technical terms. Yet, sometimes they do not take proper account of the complexity and multilayered character of their narrative self-presentations. This also applies to the narratives of ecotechnology explored in this article: the treasure quest narrative used in the field of metagenomics, and the tutorial narrative proposed by the learning-from-nature movement biomimicry. Researchers from both fields tend to underestimate the general public’s understanding of the inherent ambivalence of the narratives suggested by them; the treasure quest and tutorial narratives build upon larger master narratives that can be found throughout our culture, for instance, in literature, art, and film. We will show how these genres reveal the moral ambivalence of both narratives, using two well-known movies as illustrations: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (1940).

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Unambivalent about Ambivalence in the Politics of Mourning

David McIvor’s Mourning in America and Simon Stow’s American Mourning

Greta Fowler Snyder

What does a democratically-productive form of mourning look like in America? David McIvor’s Mourning in America and Simon Stow’s American Mourning argue that it entails the embrace of ambivalence about self and other. Democratically-productive mourning pushes against the tendencies toward idealization and demonization. Embracing ambivalence enables us to move to more effective political engagement in the context of both collaboration and conflict. It allows us to understand that the process of mourning must be ongoing both to protect us from political excesses to which we are prone and to push society toward justice.

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Narratives of Ambivalence

The Ethics of Vulnerability and Agency in Research with Girls in the Sex Trade

Alexandra Ricard-Guay and Myriam Denov

In this article, we examine the ethical realities that emerged from a qualitative study with adolescent girls on sexual exploitation. We outline and articulate the importance of moving beyond the inclusion of girls’ voices in research to discussing the ethical and practical implications of doing so. We consider the notions of power, victimization, and agency and highlight the ethical dilemma of doing research with girls in the sex trade, particularly in a context in which participants’ narratives are characterized by profound ambivalence, as seen in their frequent oscillation between narratives of victimization on the one hand, and of agency and power on the other. The nexus between girlhood studies and ethics provides us with a valuable opportunity to analyze, and thus highlight, the importance of social context in understanding these adolescent girls’ narratives and self-representations.

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The Colonial State and Carnival

The Complexity and Ambiguity of Carnival in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa

Christoph Kohl

Carnival performances and their political implications underwent significant transformations in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Guinea-Bissau, West Africa. By focusing on two periods of colonization, this article examines carnival as an event that involves a multitude of meanings and forms of imitation that could imply resistance to colonialism, but were by no means limited to critique and upheaval. Colonizers, colonized, and the people mediating and situated between these overarching categories could ascribe various meanings to specific performances, thereby underlining the multi-dimensional character of carnivalesque rituals and their heterogeneous significations. In these performances, mimicking the colonizers was an active, creative, and ambiguous undertaking that repeatedly and increasingly challenged colonial representation. However, the colonial state proved to be far less controlling and totalizing than is often assumed.

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Going South

Canadians' Engagement with American Athletic Scholarships

Noel Dyck

This article examines the dynamics and implications of Canadians' pursuit of and ambiguous engagement with athletic scholarships offered to elite athletes by American colleges and universities. After sketching in the broader social and cultural context within which the movement of Canadian athletes to the U.S. occurs, it considers ways in which reckonings of high achievement in sport and other fields of performance tend to be constructed in Canada in terms of transnational and global comparisons. By examining how and why innumerable Canadian children and youths, with the assistance of parents and other adults, come to focus upon the pursuit of American athletic scholarships, this article seeks to penetrate an ambivalent form of competition that rewards its winners by taking them away from their families and country for a period of years just as they enter adulthood.