standard Seminar – How much risk management is good for us?

6th October 2014, 13:00 to 14:30, W007, Dept of Geography, Professor Sarah Curtis, Executive Director of the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience

This presentation is interdisciplinary in outlook and aims to provoke, through consideration of a specific research study, discussion of more general issues that will be addressed in various ways in the IHRR seminar series this year. These wider issues include questions about:

  • How we interpret potential hazards in terms of risks to individuals, social groups or institutions;
  • How we define and ‘place’ risks and the responsibility for risk, and the significance for risk definition and management of built, institutional, and social ‘infrastructures’;
  • Strategies of prediction, mitigation, and prevention of risks vs. preparedness, adaptation, and acceptance of risks;
  • How to balance certain types of risk against other socially or individually important priorities such as wellbeing, livelihood, eudaimonic goals (for ‘self -realisation’).

These issues will be presented in the light of an account of a qualitative research study by a team at Durham, funded by the National Institute of Health Research, which examined how the design of a new mental health hospital was viewed by patients, staff and patients’ family and friends. The discussion of our findings shows how, in the socio-geographical space of the psychiatric hospital, risk was interpreted in relation to institutional criteria as well as personal experience, and how reliance on ‘technical safety’ was manifested in the physical and social environment. It discusses the perceived problems of balancing risk governance with other aspects of therapy and wellbeing.

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