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Accepted Paper:

Judgment, Doubt, and self-Doubt: confessions from an anthropologist in Lampedusa Island.  


Alessandro Corso (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

The frontier of irregular migration appears ethnographically as a transitional space where the borderline between self and other must be constantly negotiated. This entails the acknowledgment of ethical judgment, doubt, and self-doubt as endemic to the human condition and the ethnographic project

Paper long abstract:

This article is a provocation for academics, intellectuals, and lay people, whose interests lie in the quest for knowledge, and specifically, in the quest for some understanding of what it means to discuss the question – and the limits – of being human, which is to say, of being ethical (Lambek 2015). In conversation with recent debates on doubt (1992, Toren 2007; 2017, Pelkmans 2013), ordinary ethics (Das 2007; 2015, Motta 2019), and existentialism (Jackson 2005; Rapport 2010), all concerned with the question of humanness, I consider some moments of discomfort, uncanniness, and doubt that emerged during my fieldwork in Lampedusa, the southernmost frontier of irregular migration to Europe, in order to ask what does the anthropologists’ responsibility as witnesses of forced migration at the frontier entails, and to what extent such responsibility is importantly linked to an exercise of doubting – about the world, about oneself (Cabot 2019). This will sketch a picture of what anthropological knowledge looks like if we consider it from the lenses of a new poetics of Dasein (being-in-the-world), as an ‘alteration of focus’ and a ‘state of stepping back outside one’s own ordinary mode of seeing’ (Gosetti-Ferencei 2014: 7). A serious engagement and acknowledgment of doubt as intrinsic to knowing is necessary in such a quest (Pelkmans 2013). How does doubt emerge, or hide, or otherwise disguise itself, as we learn about others, and what does that entail in terms of our quest for knowledge?

Panel Speak03b
Cosmopolitan interiority, cosmopolitan responsibility II