Trust is written about in a number of ways. Here I would like to discuss two: one being less direct, but sharper; the other more direct, but less ‘knowing’. In this latter case a number of authors tackle trust head on (Luhmann, 1979; Möllering, 2006), treating it theoretically, discussing it in relation to power, reason, habit and how we think about our actions. The argument makes sense intellectually, but it is hard to make a connection to practice or experience. In other words there is little ‘knowing’ in the practical sense. Whereas when I read ethnographic accounts (Bloch, 2013; Venkatesh, 2008) of lives lived, trust is rarely explicitly mentioned, but it is there as people describe how they get on with each other, particularly when the stakes are high. And in doing so one partially lives that journey too, even second guessing what might come. Take Venkatesh’s story for instance, of a graduate student who wants to research gangland culture in Chicago. It is a story that spans years as the student gains the trust of the gang leader JT. A trusting relationship develops between two very different people and extends to the wider gangland network and their community. It is a relationship that is shaky, tested and dangerous. Though the word trust is rarely used, it is the underpinning.
Perhaps trust is like seeing something from the corner of your eye: there it is clear and makes sense. As soon as you turn to look directly at it, any clarity disappears. And in trying to gain more understanding it takes on a different quality, less of experience and practice, more of intellect and theory.
Bloch M (2013) Types of Shared Doubt in the Flow of Discussion. In: Pelkmans M (ed.), Ethnographies of Doubt – Faith and Uncertainty in Contemporary Societies, London: I.B. Tauris & co.
Luhmann N (1979) Trust and Power. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.
Möllering G (2006) Trust: Reason, routine, reflexivity. London: Elsevier Ltd, Available from: http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=TmIhOqNNckkC&oi=fnd&pg=PR5&ots=_lJ9AWjxSa&sig=sAt6bAEjZcI6onPpPAQIYApeWBs#v=onepage&q&f=false.
Venkatesh S (2008) Gang Leaders for a Day: A Rouge Sociologist Crosses the Line. London: Allen Lane.