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'.
Experiences of Being a Refugee in Turkey as a Country for Temporary Asylum
Kristen Sarah Biehl
Interrogating Cases on Refugees in Sweden
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.
Counter-Ethics of Gender and Sexuality in an Indian Dream Analysis
On the cusp of India’s Independence, a young woman in Punjab met with a psychiatrist for a conceptual experiment – the development of a ‘more objective’ and ‘Oriental’ theory of dream analysis. Known to us only as Mrs A., not only did she offer a ‘daydream’ to analyst Dev Satya Nand, she presented an intimate account of mid-twentieth-century upper-class Indian marriage, sexuality and womanhood. In her portrayal of the stakes of kinship, she posed an alternate vision – an ethic of singularity and uncertainty formed out of, but departing from, concepts of security and emplacement. This article explores Mrs A.’s account, using the work of twenty-first-century artist Shahzia Sikander to theorize her vision of possibility, and developing the concept of a counter-ethic – a formulation that presses against the parameters of an overarching ethic, occupying its conceptual and social infrastructure, but nurturing a new vision at the points it cannot be sustained.
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.
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.
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.
Indefinite Immigration Detention
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.
This article is built on a close reading of the use of the term 'calculation' by Max Weber. On the basis of this reading, I argue for a deeper understanding of Weber's views on uncertainty in the Calvinist ethos, and for a new approach to some key issues in the moral and discursive world of financial capital today, in which accounting, accountability and profit-making have become dangerously delinked from one another.
Moral Economy and Treatment Regimes in Comparative Perspective
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.
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.