Ethnographies of Uncertainty in Africa

We are pleased to announce the publication of Ethnographies of Uncertainty in Africa co-edited by Elizabeth Cooper and David Pratten. The collection emerges from a series of workshops funded by the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, and showcases the doctoral and post-doctoral research of several scholars from Oxford University. The collection includes chapters by Elizabeth Cooper, Adam Gilbertson, Nadine Beckmann and Marco di Nunzio who have all recently graduated from Oxford, along with Julie Archambault who is currently a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the Institute.

This collection explores the productive potential of uncertainty for people living in Africa as well as for scholars of Africa. The relevance of the focus on uncertainty in Africa is not only that contemporary life is objectively risky and unpredictable (since it is so everywhere and in every period), but that uncertainty has become a dominant trope in the subjective experience of life in contemporary African societies. The contributors investigate how uncertainty animates people's ways of knowing and being across the continent. An introduction and eight ethnographic studies examine uncertainty as a social resource that can be used to negotiate insecurity, conduct and create relationships, and act as a source for imagining the future. These in-depth accounts demonstrate that uncertainty does not exist as an autonomous, external condition. Rather, uncertainty is entwined with social relations and shapes people's relationship between the present and the future. By foregrounding uncertainty, this volume advances our understandings of the contingency of practice, both socially and temporally.