Religious and secular convictions have powerful effects, but their foundations are often surprisingly fragile. New converts often come across as stringent believers precisely because they need to dispel their own lingering doubts, while revolutionary movements survive only through the denial of ambiguity. This book shows that a focus on uncertainty and doubt is indispensable for grasping the role of ideas in social action. Drawing on a wide range of cases, from spirit mediums in Taiwan to Maoist revolutionaries in India, from right-wing populists in Europe to converts to Pentecostalism in Central Asia, the authors analyse the ways in which doubt is overcome and, conversely, how belief-systems collapse. In doing so, Ethnographies of Doubt provides important insights into the cycles of faith, hope, conviction and disillusion that are intrinsic to the human condition.
Mathijs Pelkmans is Lecturer in Anthropology at the London School of Economics, UK. He is the author of "Defending the Border: Identity, Religion and Modernity in the Republic of Georgia" (2006, Cornell University Press) and "Conversion after Socialism: Disruptions, Modernisms and Technologies of Faith in the Former Soviet Union" (2009, Berghahn Books).
'In this sensitive, wide-ranging collection, he [the author] successfully unites ethnographies from writers who've managed to pin doubt down and study its dynamic…together they illuminate the many ways in which doubt descends, is transformed and is acted upon, exploring also its interplay with conviction.'
Alice Bloch, New Humanist
Imprint: Tauris Academic Studies
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd.Hardback
Publication Date: 30 Mar 2013
Number of Pages: 256
Illustrations: 6 integrated bw illustrations