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Introduction: Writing failure: knowledge production, temporalities, ethics and traces

Alexander, Catherine (2023) 'Introduction: Writing failure: knowledge production, temporalities, ethics and traces.', Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 29 . pp. 8-30.


This volume follows failures out into the world exploring how they unfold ethnographically. Taking a longer view shows how objects, narratives and diagnoses of failures may be crafted, acted on, suffered, resisted—unmade or recomposed. Thus while tropes and diagnoses of failure can temporarily (re)organize, narrate and stabilize the world, the kinds of failures explored here also indicate a mode of uncontainable excess that refuses the boundedness of knowledge objects, temporalities and spaces. This volume offer three main interventions. The first concerns knowledge production: how objects of failure are crafted through selective ways of knowing that occludes both other modes of apprehension at different scales plus failure’s many affective valences. The second thinks through the knotted temporalities—whether pasts, futures, suspended presents or repetition and sedimentation—that make and are made by failure. Finally, writing about unfurling failures requires careful attention to the non-linear reverberations, traces, open-endedness, and mobile narratives that produce different social and material effects.

Item Type:Article
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo
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Publisher statement:© 2023 The Authors. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Anthropological Institute. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.
Date accepted:06 December 2022
Date deposited:07 December 2022
Date of first online publication:24 February 2023
Date first made open access:28 March 2023

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