Edgetalk: Beyond the 'indescribable' Moment at the Edge

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 11:30
Oral Presentation
Gulin KAYHAN, Waseda University, Graduate School of Asia Pacific Studies, Japan
Risk is commonly treated as a negative concept and risk aversion is the dominant orientation to risk that scholars have in mind when they study how ‘ordinary’ people approach and live with risks. Stephen Lyng’s work on edgework reminds us that for individuals who actively seek risks, risk is not only “good” but also very dynamic and unstable. The edgework approach and its attempt to explore “the complexities and contextual specificities of risk” (Lyng 2014: 2) offers important insights to understand individual journeys in life, where actor motivations cannot be generalized and their terms ever changing as they strive to make meaning of their lives. I argue in this article that this emphasis on edgeworker’s agency to define the meaning of their own experiences creates a blind spot in studies on voluntary risk taking that are influenced by Lyng. While edgework approach attempts to understand sociologically why individuals engage in voluntary risk taking, by suggesting a causal relationship between their individual motivations to act and the social position they find themselves in, due to societal forces that are beyond their own control, a sociological analysis of how they talk about the edge and why they choose the terms they choose to define what they do is scarce. Those who watch edgework but not undertake it talk about it, too. How do we study the vocabulary around edgework and its social circulation in relation to other cultural notions? I develop the concept of edgetalk in this paper to approach this question. I suggest edgetalk as an alternative path for study that does not focus on the reasons for participation in edgework, but instead, on the choice of cultural idioms when participants and spectators talk about voluntary risk taking.