Ambiguity as a Strategy for Negotiating Identity
The article explores the relationship of ambiguity to identity in societal contexts dominated by discourses of fixed, essentialist and hierarchic sexual and ethnic dichotomies. Rather than accept hegemonic definitions of ambiguity as something harmful to society and its members, the article suggests that ambiguity functions as a key coping strategy – especially for women and men navigating, negotiating and positioning themselves and their identities in opposition to how they are defined by heteronormative and Eurocentric discourses. Drawing on data collected from psychotherapeutic practice as well as from interviews with women and men who have used ambiguity in this way, the article describes how they define and celebrate their identities in opposition to the stigmatized and subordinate identities ascribed to them by dominant binary discourses in a social field marked by rigid boundaries, uncertainties and paradoxes. The article concludes with a brief discussion of the importance of ambiguity as a strategy not only for aiding interpersonal relationships but also as one crucial in organizational contexts.