Preface: Cultivating uncertainty

François Berthomé, Julien Bonhomme, Grégory Delaplace


This themed section explores situations of interactional uncertainty, namely contexts in which the grounds of an interaction cannot be taken for granted. How to be sure, for instance, that a barbed comment is only intended to tease and is not really meant to be offensive? In the same vein, how are we to deal with “white lies” and other strategic dissimulations in flirtatious relationships? And how can we ever be sure that a benign handshake does not in fact hide malevolent intentions? These are some of the issues the contributors address in this volume. . . . All the essays gathered here deal with opaque situations that generate uncertainty from the participants’ points of view. . . . First, several authors show that interactional uncertainty is not always reducible to accidental misunderstandings, but can also be a constitutive or “built-in” element of various social settings. Second, many contributions refuse to consider uncertainty exclusively as a problem to be faced and solved. They show not only how social agents navigate through opaque interactions, but also how they deal with opacity as a social resource enabling them to negotiate or even create relationships. In brief, they stress the productivity of uncertainty at the heart of human sociality.

-Excerpt from the preface




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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14318/hau2.2.008