W058
Moral journeys: manifestations of certainty and uncertainty across Europe

Convenors:
Adam Drazin (University College London)
Sabina Stan (Dublin City University)
Chair:
Adam Drazin
Discussant:
Filippo Zerilli (University of Cagliari) zerilli@unica.it
Stream:
Workshops
Location:
Wills 3.23
Start time:
21 September, 2006 at 11:30
Session slots:
2

Short abstract:

A quest for moral certainty is pre-figured in many conceptions about sociality. Ethnographies of change reveal the ways in which certainty is confronted among East Europeans living across Europe.

Long abstract:

Anthropology has a long tradition of close-quarter scrutiny of the ways in which certainty and uncertainty are constructed and dealt with in social life. Studies of magic, luck and the social reproduction of meaning have always formed routes to explore how it is possible to grasp and manipulate degrees of certainty within a moral foundation. Dealing with certainty and uncertainty is an embedded and politicised affair, not necessarily an inevitable Durkheimian quest for certainty. <br/>As anthropology has moved from the exotic to the everyday, representations of desired future states (Rowlands 1994, p149) are recognised in multiple arenas of social life. In the home, on the gendered body, in economic practices and the socio-political grand narratives of Europe, certainty and uncertainty are conceived, manifested and negotiated. The European arena currently offers the particular possibility to investigate the issue in multiple forms, combining Europe as uncertain project with notions of living after. The words used to describe sociality in the region have implied uncertainty, without challenging the pre-figuration of certainty as the aim of social action. <br/>This workshop contends that areas of social life from the region as diverse as farming practice, the home, labour and sexuality, hitherto considered separately, conjointly present possibilities to ethnographically scrutinise certainty. The multi-sitedness of Eastern European life, from Bucharest to Dublin, proposes one main dimension of this experience, and the decision to migrate West is a major strategy to address the problematics of certainty in diverse social domains. Farm owners move West as farm labourers, home owners become domestic helpers, and gender identities are negotiated in movement, in each case challenging constructions of the pre-existence of social certainty as the aim.