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Brexit: Modes of uncertainty and futures in an impasse

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Julia Heslop, Dr Emma OrmerodORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2020.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


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.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Anderson B, Wilson H, Forman P, Heslop J, Ormerod E, Maestri G

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers

Year: 2020

Volume: 45

Issue: 2

Pages: 256-269

Print publication date: 14/05/2020

Online publication date: 21/09/2019

Acceptance date: 28/08/2019

Date deposited: 23/09/2019

ISSN (print): 0020-2754

ISSN (electronic): 1475-5661

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/tran.12348


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