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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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Intimacy, Cooperation and Ambivalence

Social, Economic and Cultural Interaction between Jews and Berbers in Morocco

Joseph Yossi Chetrit

This study deals with the entangled relations that developed between Jews and Berbers in Morocco. From the beginnings of the Arab rule, Jews lived as Dhimmis under the protection of Arab or Berber dynasties in urban centres, or Berber tribes and clans in rural ones. They not only shared the same spaces and material culture with the Berbers but also popular beliefs and practices, such as the veneration of saints, magical thinking, folk medicine and a great repertoire of Berber songs, dances, tales and proverbs. However, their asymmetrical political status as protectors and protected and their divergent Jewish and Muslim faiths led Berbers to ambivalent misconceptions about Jews and their forms of life, despite their intimate coexistence and their complementary economic cooperation. After a long separation, Berbers and Jews are currently attempting to reconstruct their memories of the other, and both parties seem to idealise their shared past.

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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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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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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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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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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.

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Les Ambivalences de la Rationalisation

À propos du rôle joué par les médias dans la présidentielle 2012

Eric Lagneau and Cyril Lemieux

By comparison with 2002 and 2007, does the 2012 presidential election reveal significant changes in French media functioning and their relations with the political sphere? To answer this question, this article challenges four statements heard during the campaign. They deal with the contribution of the media to François Hollande's victory, the way journalists reported on the campaign, the role played by the polls and finally, the candidates' strategies in media agenda setting. Even if the features traditionally ascribed to the French media (social proximity between journalists and politicians, importance of state regulation and public service, orientation toward the intellectual viewpoint in the patterns of media coverage) have not completely vanished, they describe reality less and less. Indeed, as shown in the article, both the media and the political sphere are today subjected to a converging process of rationalization that transforms their practices and mutual relations.

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‘Fight Abortion, Not Women’

The Moral Economy Underlying Russian Feminist Advocacy

Michele Rivkin-Fish

This article traces the conceptual emergence and development of feminist-oriented abortion politics in urban Russia between 2011 and 2015. Examined as an example of local adaptions of global reproductive rights movements, Russians’ advocacy for abortion access reflects commitments and tensions characterising post-Soviet feminism. Specifically, I show how calls to preserve women’s access to legal abortion have drawn on both socialist-inspired ideals of state support for families and liberal-oriented ideas of individual autonomy. Attention to the logics underlying abortion activists’ rhetoric reveals the specific historical sensibilities and shifting cultural values at stake in the ways progressive Russian activists construe justice. The analytic concept of ‘moral economy’ brings into relief how their advocacy evokes ideal visions of reciprocal obligations and uncertainties in both state-citizen relations and intimate relations. I argue that contextualised analyses of local feminist abortion politics may enrich global debates for reproductive rights and justice.

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Ambivalent Atheist Identities

Power and Non-religious Culture in Contemporary Britain

Lois Lee

In Britain, most non-theists and atheists do not identify themselves as such in explicit terms, yet non-theistic cultural threads are interwoven through everyday discourses. This article calls for more extensive ethnographic engagement with these more diffuse—and therefore less visible and less commonly researched—forms of non-religious culture. Based on exploratory fieldwork conducted in South East England, it draws attention to one set of these indistinct non-religious forms: 'authentic' and 'inauthentic' ambivalent atheist and non-religious self-understandings and self-representations. It demonstrates how these identities may be subjectively meaningful and culturally significant and how they may be simultaneously empowering and disempowering. Scrutiny of ambivalent atheist identities points to complicated dynamics between non-religion and power and the value of attending to poorly or unmarked non-religious cultures through ethnographic work.