The anthropology of ambiguity

Edited by Mahnaz Alimardanian and Timothy Heffernan

The anthropology of ambiguity
Hardcover -
  • Price: £90.00
  • ISBN: 9781526173843
  • Publish Date: May 2024
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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  • Price: £90.00
  • ISBN: 9781526173836
  • Publish Date: May 2024
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Book Information

    • Format: Hardcover
    • ISBN: 978-1-5261-7384-3
    • Pages: 264
    • Price: £90.00
    • Published Date: May 2024


    This volume puts ambiguity and its generative power at the centre of analytical attention. Rather than being cast negatively as a source of confusion, bewilderment or as a dangerous portent, ambiguity is held as the source of the dynamic between knowledge and experience and of certainty amid uncertainty. It positions human life between the realms of mystery and mastery where ambiguity is understood as the experience and expression of life and part of navigating the human condition. In turn, the tension between the tradition in anthropology of examining cultural certitudes through ethnographic description and efforts to challenge dominant expressions of incertitude are explored. Each chapter presents ethnographic accounts of how people engage individually and collectively with the self, the other, human-made institutions and the more-than-human to navigate ambiguity in a world affected by viral contagion, climate change, economic instability, labour precarity and (geo)political tension.


    "In unsettling times such as these, The Anthropology of ambiguity provides a critical resource for thinking through the ambient flux of ambiguous experiences that increasingly constitute our contemporary condition. Ambitious theoretically and attuned to the intricacies of lived experience, the volume significantly contributes to anthropological efforts to understand our complexly situated worldly existence as humans."
    C. Jason Throop, Professor & Chair, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles

    "Narrated through captivating ethnography and thought-provoking analyses, this volume brilliantly showcases nuanced ways in which reading ambiguity can help us understand the crises of our times."
    Yasmine Musharbash, Associate Professor, Australian National University


    Introduction - Timothy Heffernan and Mahnaz Alimardanian
    Part I: Theorising ambiguity
    1 Ontology and its double: on the nature of ambiguity and lived experience - Mahnaz Alimardanian
    2 Ambiguity and catastrophe: crises of understanding in the age of COVID-19 - David J. Rosner
    3 Ambiguity and politics: the suppression of complexity in Australian governmental responses to climate change - Jonathan P. Marshall
    Part II: Navigating temporal disruption
    4 Queering the crisis-recovery nexus: personhood and societal transformation after economic collapse in Iceland - Timothy Heffernan
    5 Accommodating care through strategic ignorance: the ambiguities of kidney disease amongst Yol?u renal patients in Australia's Northern Territory - Stefanie Puszka
    6 Charting fields of uncertainty: disaster, displacement and resilience in Bangladeshi char villages - Mohammad Altaf Hossain
    Part III: Imaging an 'otherwise'
    7 Ambiguity in Belgrade's bike activism: marginalised activists, powerful agents of change - Sabrina Steindl-Kopf
    8 Adding (ambiguous) value: interfacing between alternative economics and entrepreneurial innovation in Ecuador - Alexander Emile D'Aloia
    9 The sovereign's road: checkpoints and the ambiguity of exception during Aotearoa's lockdown - Joe Clifford
    10 Grease Yaka in Sri Lankan political culture: humour, anxiety and existential ambiguities in public sphere - Anton Piyarathne
    Part IV: Self-realisation and disjuncture
    11 Liminal ambiguity: the tricky position of being Black in white skin - Suzi Hutchings
    12 The ambiguous path of self-cultivation in contemporary China - Gil Hizi
    13 Ontological ambiguity: crisis, hyperfiction and social narratives in postmodern Japan - Angélica Cabrera Torrecilla
    Afterword: sitting and being with ambiguity - Mahnaz Alimardanian and Timothy Heffernan


    Mahnaz Alimardanian is an adjunct research fellow at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University, and a consultant anthropologist providing community-based research services in Australia, PiiR Consulting.

    Timothy Heffernan is a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Built Environment, University of New South Wales, and a visiting fellow (2022-24) at the School of Psychology and Medicine, Australian National University

    The anthropology of ambiguity

    Edited by Mahnaz Alimardanian, Timothy Heffernan

    Hardcover £90.00 / $140.00

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