(A24)
Disasters and participation: inventive/disruptive encounters
Location Faraday Lecture Theatre (Faraday Complex)
Date and Start Time 25 Jul, 2018 at 13:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Maggie Mort (Lancaster University) email
  • Israel Rodriguez-Giralt (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya) email

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Short abstract

The fields of disaster management/risk reduction value participation highly. However, as complex entanglements of social, cultural & material dimensions, disasters may also challenge, contest or redefine the idea of participation. We will focus on the recursive, inventive & sometimes disruptive, interactions between disaster & participation.

Long abstract

Disaster management and risk reduction (DRR) fields widely acknowledge the importance of participation. Practices include incorporating lay knowledge, citizen consultations, local action for effective risk management, community-based DRR, etc. From the Yokohama Strategy/ Plan of Action to the Hyogo and Sendai Frameworks, we see a shift from top-down technocratic approaches to ones where bottom-up, grassroots, local and community knowledge and actors play out (including the growing focus on social differences in vulnerability and how these might be addressed with/through participation). This panel aims to explore empirically and critically the growing forms of, and extents of this participatory turn; its achievements, contestations and implications for disaster management.

We also invite papers interested in studying disasters as complex entanglements of social, cultural, political, but also often recalcitrant material dimensions (often distributed along disparate scales). What happens when we try to engage with geological processes, new climate or wildfire patterns? How to analyse and construct methodological and political interventions for participating with non-conventional ‘voices’ and ‘agencies’? Are disasters as complex and hybrid entanglements affecting, contesting or redefining the very idea of participation? Do disasters enhance new forms of political practices and imagination?

The panel aims to focus on the recursive, inventive, and sometimes disruptive, interactions between disaster and participation.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Disaster on standby

Author: Joe Deville (Lancaster University) email
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Short abstract

This paper examines the contested forms of participation that disaster preparedness organisations engage in while on standby. Specifically, it examines a set of Swiss disaster preparedness organisations for which standby is a particularly intensive yet simultaneously frustrating mode of behaviour.

Long abstract

Disasters seem to be embody a clear relationship to participation: their capacity to destroy lives, property, social and economic relations over a vast scale demands responses that involve action and activity from a range of parties. But what registers of participation do disasters demand from those tasked with *waiting* for such calamitous events? This paper examines the sometimes contested forms of participation that disaster preparedness organisations engage in while waiting, while on *standby*. Specifically, it examines a set of disaster preparedness organisations for which standby is a particularly intensive yet simultaneously frustrating mode of behaviour. Partly for historical reasons, Switzerland has developed arguably the world's most sophisticated and disaster response infrastructure. And yet the disaster preparedness organisations involved are rarely called into action given the - by comparison even to neighbouring countries - paradoxically low risk of disaster. The paper brings together ethnographic research undertaken in the heart of the Swiss civil protection infrastructure, and in particular in its dedicated civil protection force, with archival research to explore the intersecting registers of participation involved in the day performance of disaster preparedness in Switzerland, in both its recent and more distant past. The paper argues that civil protection involves a simultaneous attempt to technologically and organisationally stabilise standby - to make it into a liveable and actionable temporal category - whilst integrating as one of its essential components the hope of its erasure. This is a precarious activity beset by tensions, ruptures, and overflows, as different registers of participation intersect.

Participatory crisis governance and emergency planning for pandemic preparedness

Author: Elisa Pieri (University of Manchester) email
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Short abstract

The paper is based on research investigating the social impacts of pandemic preparedness. It calls for an examination of the values and priorities inbuilt in current preparedness strategies, developed within policy and practitioner networks, and for a move towards participatory crisis governance.

Long abstract

The risk of new global pandemics has become a pressing concern in the West. Emergent pandemic emergencies are discussed amongst scientists working in various medical fields - from immunology to virology, epidemiology and veterinary research. Pandemic threat and the planning towards its mitigation feature increasingly in policy strategy at various levels. Under the aegis of the WHO, most nations have drafted plans to mitigate pandemic risk, and are part of global networks for infectious disease surveillance and response.

My paper integrates findings from a three-year fellowship project, including interviews with a range of pandemic preparedness experts, a debate with lay members of the public and an analysis of plans and strategies diffused by various organisations. Pandemic emergencies produce complex socio-cultural-material entanglements and in this paper I discuss the values and priorities inbuilt in current preparedness strategies, and the (often unintended) social impacts resulting from the measure adopted during previous pandemics.

Through my findings I argue for the involvement of members of the public, alongside other stakeholders, in a debate over the planning, the setting of priorities and, for example, the principles that may guide the allocation of scarce resources. Only through inclusive and sustained public engagement can we ensure that preparedness planning and the decisions taken in the event of a pandemic emergency are socially robust - procedurally fair and equitable, transparent and open to redress.

IsITEthical? Participatory ethics in crises

Authors: Maria Alejandra Lujan Escalante (Lancaster University) email
Monika Buscher (Lancaster University) email
Hayley Alter (Lancaster University) email
Xaroula Kerasidou (Lancaster University) email
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Short abstract

This paper present insights from one of IsITethical? Experiments, the EtiKit, a travelling pop-up digital-physical exercise designed to trigger temporal participatory spaces to support ethical conversations.

Long abstract

Responses in Disaster and Risk Management (DRM) are changing from 'authoritative' and public forms of command and control to 'datafied' and net-centric approaches. This promises new ways to conduct predictive analysis, more agile response capacity and coordination of time-critical, multi-agency operations, as well as, more targeted communications with the public, opening formally, and informally, more opportunities for participation. Simultaneously, innovation in the DRM also involves surveillance of people, assets, and environments as well as a sense of distributed responsibilities.

Ethical tensions arise between human rights and the drive to innovate for better public preparedness. Currently, research and innovation is struggling to address these tensions proactively, in part because knowledge is fragmented through sectors, cultures, countries and throughout a diversity of legal and technical bases, and in part because the challenges are formidable. Responses to these tensions often focus on a particular technology or domain as if it were separate from contexts of design, management, policy, culture and use, rather than acknowledge the interconnected organizational complexities enfolded into in each stage

IsITethical?Exchange is an initiative of a group of scholars in collaboration with Public Safety Communications Europe Network, to build community of practitioners, researchers, commercial developers and policy-makers in the DRM. It experiments with collaborative and creative methods to catalyse a participatory approach to ethical assessment as ongoing process, rather than a policing document.

This paper present insights from one of IsITethical? Experiments, the EtiKit, a travelling pop-up digital-physical exercise designed to trigger temporal participatory spaces to support ethical conversations.

Shifts in medical work following the Fukushima disaster

Author: Sudeepa Abeysinghe (University of Edinburgh) email
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Short abstract

This paper draws on interview data to examine changes in medical professional practice following the Fukushima disaster. These changes included the development of new forms of expertise, the stretching of expertise, and the rise of new relationships between the medical workers and their community.

Long abstract

Risk and uncertainty can destabilise the relationships between medicine, policy and publics. Through semi-structured interviews with medical staff following the Fukushima Triple Disaster, this paper demonstrates the way in which disruption (caused by disaster), coupled with uncertainty (in this case, around radiation risk) serves to problematise risk management policy. After Fukushima, a deficit in publicly trusted approaches to disaster management meant that the role and status of key medical professionals was transformed. This reorganisation of medical work included the development of new forms of expertise, the stretching of expertise beyond previously well-defined professional boundaries, and shifts in the way in which medical professionals understand and interact with publics. These changes signified the rise of new relationships between the medical workers and their community, as well as adjustments in the what was regarded as the boundaries of medical work. Given both the ubiquitous threat of disasters and more general calls for increased engagement between the medicine and the public, this case study provides insight into the forms which such engagements can take, especially when bound by conditions of uncertainty. The paper draws upon the theoretical literature around the impact of uncertainty on policy, and combines this with medical sociological literature on the nature of medical expertise. The paper examines the shifting of medical expertise towards mode 2 forms, and evidences the impact of a democratised science of risk on the roles and functions of medical practice.

Citizen science after the Fukushima nuclear accident: an encounter with bottom-up crisis management and post-disaster recovery

Authors: Joke Kenens (SCK•CEN Belgian Nuclear Research Centre) email
Ine Van Hoyweghen (KU Leuven) email
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Short abstract

This paper takes up citizen engagement in the field of radiation monitoring after the Fukushima nuclear accident. It explores how grassroots organizations responded to concerns of citizens and unveils the contributions bottom-up initiatives made to crisis management and post-disaster recovery.

Long abstract

When an earthquake and tsunami rocked Japan in 2011, its disruptive power left a scar in the landscape and minds of the Japanese people. On top of this, the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant displaced communities and exposed the fragile foundations of the nuclear safety myth in Japan. For the affected communities nuclear energy was no longer the energy of a bright future, but the source of risk and contestation. Faced with a new reality, radiation measurement laboratories that enable citizens to independently measure ionizing radiation boomed throughout Japan, creating alternative paths for disaster management and post-disaster reconstruction. Although bottom-up citizen science in the field of radiation monitoring is not a new phenomenon, the organizations established in the wake of the Fukushima accident are exceeding the boundaries of preceding organizations in numbers, in space and in data production. Over the past seven years they continue to assert themselves as beacons of transparency, education and participation. Moreover, some organizations like Safecast are increasingly seeking recognition from the authorities. Drawing on research literature on citizen science and fieldwork in Japan, this paper takes these bottom-up citizen radiation measurement laboratories as an opportunity to reflect upon the diversity of bottom-up participation and to explore how they are providing responses to citizens' concerns and expectations. In this way, it examines the contributions grassroots organizations (can) make within a post-disaster environment.

Keywords: grassroots radiation measurement, Fukushima nuclear accident, radiation monitoring, crisis management and post-disaster recovery

Intimate evidence, experimental politics: DIY citizen sensing and the regimes of perceptibility of slow disasters

Authors: Manuel Tironi (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile) email
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Short abstract

We present an experimental exercise of citizen sensing of PM2.5 using DIY sensors in Puchuncaví, Chile, to think about the political affordances of producing and collectivizing pollution data at the domestic scale.

Long abstract

Chronic disasters such as atmospheric pollution creep slowly yet vitally into view and sentience. Toxicants are lived and felt in the register domesticity and affect, rendering themselves perceptible through cough, itchy eyes, dust coating daily objects and other unspectacular situations inseparable from life's embodied situatedness. Yet atmospheric contamination is obdurately monitored at municipal and regional scales, while the lived experiences of those who suffer are discarded as invalid forms of knowing. As pollution is often unequally distributed across class and race lines, the possibilities of political contestation are thus restricted to the capacities of poor, poisoned and otherwise marginalized communities to access, understand and mobilize environmental data. In this paper we turn to an experimental exercise of citizen sensing of PM2.5 using DIY sensors in Puchuncaví, Chile, to think about the political affordances of producing and collectivizing pollution data at the domestic scale. We are interested in the interface between experiential and intimate evidence, data production and participation, and in the disruptive capacities of such interface for environmental justice. More specifically, we describe three generative capacities of the experiment. First, the way the participatory process enlivened particulate matter as an object of care for those involved. Second, how the experiment invoked a sense of political assembly among participants. And finally, the power of the intervention to create a new set of political tactics. The experiment, we finally suggest, pushes us to rethink the regimes of perceptibility often at work in participatory exercises during, after or in situations of disaster.

Infernal encounters: extractive communities at the intersection of earth system and stratigraphic trouble

Authors: Nigel Clark (Lancaster University) email
Lauren Rickards (RMIT University) email
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Short abstract

Our concern is a new species of trouble emerging at the intersection of earth system change and geological destratification. In the context of a 2014 wildfire-ignited coal seam fire in Australia, we explore how extractive communities are complexly positioned as victims, witnesses and perpetrators

Long abstract

Disasters often serve as ontological disturbances - sparking improvisations and political mobilisations. But what happens when disasters interpellate people and elements in profoundly irreconcilable ways? In 2014, bushfire in Victoria's Latrobe Valley ignited opencast workings at the Hazelwood mine - which supplied highly-polluting lignite coal to Australia's largest thermal power facility. For 45 days fires blanketed nearby Morwell in toxic haze, the crisis precipitating permanent closure of the power plant on which the town depended economically. Official inquiries avoided drawing direct connections between hydrocarbon extraction, climate change and escalating wildfire hazard. They also eschewed genuine consultation with `difficult' local communities - who were already beset by socio-economic vulnerability and exceptional work-related morbidity.

Hazelwood's fearsome collision of shifting earth-systemic processes (fire, weather) and deeper, slower-moving, geological formations seems paradigmatic of conditions shorthanded as the Anthropocene. We conceive of the self-augmenting feedback of earth system and destratification as a new inhuman species of trouble. Coal participates doubly as generator of climate change and wildfire's `quarry', water as object of climate-driven scarcity and vital fire-fighting resource, fire as essential ecological process and objective of hydrocarbon extraction. Mining communities, meanwhile, are complexly positioned as victims, witnesses and perpetrators. While considering a range of historical encounters involving indigenous landowners, farmers and environmentalists, we also address extractive communities' deep collective experience of a stratified earth. More generally, we ask, what forms might collective action take in a world increasingly assailed by runaway earth system-stratigraphic strife - and how is such participation mediated by rock, water, fire?

Managing the "wave of helpers": socio-technical solutions for societal resilience

Authors: Linda Madsen (University of Freiburg) email
Jens Hälterlein (University Freiburg) email
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Short abstract

This paper offers a reflexive, praxiographic account from within a collaborative applied research project, it attends to the changing role of the citizen in the federal move towards resilience, and it discusses contemporary socio-technical interventions in emerging volunteering structures.

Long abstract

Based on our participation in a collaborative research project, this paper discusses current attempts to include citizens into emergency and disaster relief in Germany. The project aims for increased resilience by creating a virtual space for integrating citizens in emergency and disaster relief. It considers the two complementary scenarios, rainstorm and human migration.

This paper explores, firstly, the changing role of the gendered citizen within the federal program for the funding of civil security research in Germany. This programme, within which our project is funded, is part of the so-called German High-Tech Strategy, which aims to strengthen the national security-economy. Following from this, the paper secondly discusses how technologies that are emerging within the research framework and the available social media tools currently used by grass-root initiatives might contribute to reconfigure the structures for citizens' involvement in emergency and disaster relief. This discussion is based on insights gained through interviews with so-called unaffiliated-, spontaneous- or convergent volunteers and with members emergent citizens groups, review of literature on the use of social media related to emergency and disaster relief and our own involvement in the research project. Finally, we consider how our and similar projects might contribute to intervene in the power relations and structures of the volunteer emergency and disaster relief organizations.

With this paper we want to highlight how analytical resources from feminist techno-science studies, and STS user studies contribute with different kind of sensitivities and open up for understanding the dynamic field of disaster management differently.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.