Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Cultural Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Violence
Secondary Theme: The Political
How do people inhabit their life when they seem condemned to a social death? Scholars working on violence have shown how an ontology of inequality structures the value of life. Targets of humanitarian interventions, migrants in refugee camps or deviant lives shut down in prison: all seem to have crossed the line between being cared for and being taken care of. But even when people experience subjection, they never live in pure subjection. No matter their tragic fate, people try to frame their experience in their own terms. Yet, their attempts to recreate the ordinariness of life, even under the direst of circumstances, challenge the limits between political existence and biological life.
Ambiguous life is about challenging concepts that define the value of life in social sciences. In discussing the entanglement of lives – in their multiple understandings as well as through their enactments – we aim at exploring the notion of Ambiguous Life. This notion has the potential to capture the multiple and often-contradictory experiences of to be cared, being taken care of and the need to articulate the multiple and sometimes unstable life paradigms present in the recent sociological discussion on the topic.
This panel will gather scholars working on displacement, and containment in post-colonial contexts. Ethnography offers unique tools to shed light on the liminal space that people inhabit when trapped between trying to act upon their lives and being constantly acted upon. Ambiguous Life is thus not only about how life can be reborn in a history of violence but how only ethnography can grasp these existences that unfold on the edges of life and death.