The Importance of Being Ambiguous

Adam B. Seligman and Robert P. Weller

in Rethinking Pluralism

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199915262
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199980215 | DOI:
The Importance of Being Ambiguous

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This chapter explores the inherent ambiguity of social ordering and its place in anthropological and sociological thought. It analyzes the connections between ambiguity and empathy and argues that all quests for certainty contain inherent dangers and limitations. It reviews the work of Claude Levi-Strauss, Mary Douglas, Donald Levine, Victor Turner, and D. W. Winnicott, as they address the problem of boundaries and how we can move across them. The chapter argues that any creation of order, boundaries, or categories brings its own ambiguities. Social life requires differentiation, but differentiation can never release us from the problem of ambiguous boundaries.

Keywords: ambiguity; categories; order; boundaries

Chapter.  9727 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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