chapter  2
Ambiguity as a Solution to the “Problem” of Intercultural Weddings
ByWendy Leeds-Hurwitz
Pages 10

Often it is assumed that the goal of interaction is for all participants to accurately and completely understand one another; this has led to comments about the need for “good” or “more” communication. Despite this, there are times when “it is to the interests of both parties to leave the situation as fuzzy, amorphous and undefined as possible” (Kursh, 1971, p. 190). I explore in this chapter a situation in which not understanding one another is actually the best resolution to matters, specifically an intercultural wedding. Hendry and Watson (2001) provide a list of ends that are best served by ambiguity (their term is indirection); of these, the case study described here most clearly fits their category of strengthening group ties as well as membership boundaries. In this case, as in others, “the toleration of ambiguity can be productive if it is taken not as a warrant for sloppy thinking but as an invitation to deal responsibly with issues of great complexity” (Levine, 1985, p. 17). In other words, since human social interaction is complicated, with each interaction potentially having multiple functions or goals, effort should be made to understand that complexity and appreciate the methods people have devised for coping with it, rather than assuming that simplicity is always best. It is likely that, once scholars recognize ambiguity as a solution to complex social interactions, it will be discovered as an appropriate resolution to potential conflicts in other contexts beyond this one example, especially other intercultural interactions.1 As Weiser (1974) suggests, ambiguity occurs primarily during “socially tricky situations” (p. 724), and that is a good description of the majority of intercultural interactions.2