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Brexit : modes of uncertainty and futures in an impasse.

Anderson, B. and Wilson, H. and Foreman, P. and Heslop, J. and Ormerod, E. and Maestri, G . (2020) 'Brexit : modes of uncertainty and futures in an impasse.', Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers., 45 (2). pp. 256-269.


Alongside the emergence of various populisms, Brexit and other contemporary geopolitical events have been presented as symptomatic of a generalizing and intensifying sense of uncertainty in the midst of a crisis of (neo)liberalism. In this paper we describe what kind of event Brexit is becoming in the impasse between the UK’s EU referendum in 2016 and its anticipated exit from the EU in 2019. Based on 108 interviews with people in the North‐East of England, we trace how Brexit is variously enacted and felt as an end, advent, a harbinger of worse to come, non‐event, disaster, and betrayed promise. By following how these incommensurate versions of Brexit take form and co‐exist we supplement explanatory and predictive approaches to the geographies of Brexit and exemplify an approach that traces what such geopolitical events become. Specifically, we use the concept of ‘modes of uncertainty’ as a way of discerning patterns in how present uncertainties are lived. A ‘mode of uncertainty’ is a shared set of practices animated by a distinctive mood through which futures are made present and felt. Rather than treat uncertainty as a static, explanatory context, we thus follow how different versions of Brexit are constituted through specific ‘modes of (un)certainty’ – negative hope, national optimisms, apprehensive hopefulness and fantasies of action ‐ that differentiate within a seemingly singular, shared sense of uncertainty.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This is the accepted version of the following article: Anderson, B, Wilson, H, Foreman, P, Heslop, J, Ormerod, E & Maestri, G (2020). Brexit: Modes of Uncertainty and Futures in an Impasse. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 45(2): 256-269 which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.
Date accepted:28 August 2019
Date deposited:10 October 2019
Date of first online publication:31 October 2019
Date first made open access:31 October 2021

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