IHRR’s exciting new book Critical Risk Research: Practices, Politics and Ethics will be available this spring and is currently available to pre-order online from Wiley and Amazon. Edited by Stuart Lane, Francisco Klauser and Matthew Kearnes, this collection of essays from international, interdisciplinary researchers in risk challenges common notions of risk in society in order to develop research that makes a difference in people’s lives.
Here are a few excerpts from the introduction.
‘What are risks and how do we relate to them? How are we framing, approaching and studying risks, and what are the implications of these framings? What do we know and do about risks, and in the name of risks? This book critically addresses these questions. Yet in so doing, we do not attempt to offer a best-practice model of how risk research should be done. Rather, the book’s ultimate objective is an attempt at self-reflective transgression. Through illustration, we aim to challenge the ways in which risk-problems are approached and presented, both conceptually by academics and through the, often implicit risk-framings that are encoded in the technologies and socio-political and institutional practices surrounding contemporary risk research and management’.
Risk research after the Tohoku earthquake and Fukushima meltdown:
‘Though incidents, such as the nuclear meltdown and release of radioactive material at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, and the ensuing political and economic crises, are precipitated by a ‘natural’ disaster these events demonstrate how risk is equally, if not more acutely, produced by the coupling between system elements, including environmental hazards, management systems and technologies. In this analysis vulnerability is not simply attributable to any one element of the system, so precluding mechanistic analysis of causation. Rather, the system becomes vulnerable because of the connections between elements that may be hidden and dynamic, making them difficult to identify except with the benefit of hindsight. The risks and vulnerabilities induced by events such as the Tōhoku earthquake operate as a complex assemblage of social, political, technical and geological factors’.
The shortcomings of risk assessments:
‘Risk assessments are given a preeminent role in formal planning processes and the associated political and economic calculations, often because it is presumed that such assessments are both unambiguous and unbiased. However, the analysis of risk assessment in practice reveals that it has to be highly constrained by both policy and institutions in order to make problems scientifically tractable and politically and socially manageable. The critical danger for risk researchers is that, rather than mitigating the effects of these incidents, such research forms part of the institutional structures that force problems to become tractable in particular ways and, even, render social groups more susceptible to systemic harm’.