Accepted Paper:

'To be allowed to be afraid': from human rights to austerity, self-governance and populism in the making of a local politics of suffering in the UK environmental hazard context  


Irena Leisbet Ceridwen Connon (University of Dundee)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on ethnographic and archival research, this paper looks at how changing dominant political discourses over the previous 20 years have contributed the formation and shaping of a new local politics of suffering in the UK environmental hazard context.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the relationship between changing dominant political discourses and local perceptions of environmental hazards within the UK over a 20 year period. Drawing on ethnographic and archival research, I outline a major shift in local conceptualisations of environmental risks, hazards and responses, from one of rights and inclusion to one of exclusion, deservedness, localism and populist transformation. Exploring how changing local ideas of living with risk, of tolerance to weather and industrial hazard events and the provision of disaster relief and mitigation are now framed both positively and negative within a language of 'acceptability', I suggest that local conceptualisations of disaster result from a combination of changing dominant political discourses, long-standing culturally embedded ideals of egalitarianism originating in Protestantism and an increasing sense of awareness of global change. From this, I argue that this has led to the formation of an identity-based local politics of suffering that influences ideas about who should be 'allowed' to experience and/or display fear during extreme weather events and who should be given priority to receive emergency assistance during the actual hazard events themselves. The paper concludes that this has also led to the creation of new vulnerabilities amongst groups previously identified as being at less risk and suggests that the long-term neglect of the emotional aspects of disaster within hazard mitigation and response development contributed significantly to a recent acceleration within this shift.

Panel LL-AS07
The scope of the anthropology of risk and disaster