Critical Studies in Risk and Uncertainty

Critical approaches to risk and security: East, South, North and West – ISA conference, April

Our 2017 ISA TG04 mid-term conference hosted by the University of Liverpool in Singapore is now open for registration. The conference will take place from 10 – 12 April in Singapore and the lead organiser is Dr Anna Anderson, from the TG04 network. The title of the conference is ‘Critical Approaches to Risk and Security: East, South, North and West’ and the conference details can be found on the University of Liverpool’s website.

The broad conference theme will consider critical approaches to risk and security that seek to explore the diverse, contingent and dynamic nature of security in the contemporary world. The conference will provide a platform to examine questions such as what and who is defined as a security threat? What type of security is being pursued across different geographical contexts? For what, whom and at what price? Who gets to speak about security and what are the dominant ways security is spoken about? How do dominant security narratives allow some things to be said and thought and not others, allowing some ways of acting to be promoted and exclude others?

Members of the risk cluster are helping to organise this conference and the associated XIX ISA World Congress of Sociology in Toronto, Canada in 2018. Adam Burgess is organising a panel on comparative and historical perspectives, and Joy Zhang on ‘risk framing between North and South’:

Historical and comparative perspectives on risk stream:

A historical and comparative perspective is central to the original outline of the sociological approach to risk, which argued that risk was a distinctively modern concept. Comparing the impact and management of particular risks across both time and space allows unique insight. Rich comparative sociological risk research continues, such as in Tom Beamish’s recent study of the different impacts made by the prospect of siting bioterrorism facilities among different American communities.
Suggested topics for this stream include papers comparing the impact of technologies and other risks between different countries and communities, and the development of particular conceptualisations and reactions to risk over time. We particularly welcome papers that engage with the Western origins of risk concepts and practice and how these have been globalised to different effect and implication.

Bridging north-south divergence in risk framing:

Sustainable socio-economic development increasingly relies on productive collaboration between the Global North and the Global South. This is evident not least in combating climate change, but also in international aid programmes, transnational scientific collaborations, and the promotion of new professional and industrial norms and standards. Yet conflicting, sometimes contradictory, interpretations of socio-political and technological risks between stakeholders in developed and developing countries often cast a shadow over the efficiency of global initiatives. Thus a key challenge for practitioners and policymakers is to seek effective articulations of risk which speak to and sympathise with diverse interests among old and new forms of polity so as to consolidate commitments, mobilise social resources and invite innovative solutions. More importantly, as actors from the Global South are becoming more visible and vocal, it begs a renewed effort to understand and reflect upon the changing power-dynamics in risk framing and its implication for the changing geography of rights and responsibilities.

In this Panel, we invite empirically grounded contributions on how social actors and institutions from either the Global South or the Global North mitigate cultural and political differences in risk identification, mediation and control in a globalised world. Our goal is to identify and share valuable lessons from the success and failures of stakeholders (i.e., practitioners, interest groups, professional communities, policy makers and various publics) in responding to the contested nature of risks. We welcome both nation-specific and comparative studies that shed light on the North-South divergence in risk framing from contemporary and/or historical perspectives.

Please contact Adam Burgess or Joy Zhang if you would like to submit a proposal to these streams or on other topics at this event.

Narratives of environmental risk

Professor Burgess is participating in the AHRC network, Narratives of Environmental Risk organised by Esther Eidinow and Georgina Endfield at the University of Nottingham AHRC. The aim of the funded project is to deepen and develop an understanding of the nature and role of the concepts of fate, luck and fortune and forums will be taking place in 2017.

Best practice in ensuring scientific accountability in food production

Dr Zhang will be organising a conference at the University of Kent in 2017 to comparatively study best practice in ensuring scientific accountability in food production and will include GM scientists, public engagement experts and relevant NGO representatives from both China and Europe.