The domestication of uncertainty: new rituals and technologies for facing catastrophe

Mara Benadusi (University of Catania, Department of Political and Social Sciences)
Sandrine Revet (CERI - Sciences Po)
Laetitia Atlani
Giovanni Pizza
Start time:
12 July, 2012 at 11:30
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Papers should examine new recipes for intervention in cases of catastrophe. We particularly encourage analyses of mechanisms focused on the culture of "preparedness" and rituals of "resilience" that populate current emergency regimes, and of the effects they produce both internationally and locally.

Long abstract:

From tsunamis to pandemics, from nuclear contamination to biological weapons, the assumption implicit in the new "recipes for intervention" in cases of catastrophe is that such events are unexpected and therefore difficult to predict. Recent decades have thus seen a progressive decline in the influence of disaster prevention and mitigation systems (both of a technological nature and of a probabilistic type) as tools for risk reduction. In the resulting atmosphere of disquiet, new mechanisms for emergency management are taking precedence on the international scene, deriving from the interconnections between "non-predictive, futurological methods" and "adaptive strategies of response": on one hand the current models of intervention promote simulation exercises that bring future catastrophes to the present as a function of enhanced "preparedness"; on the other they emphasize the importance of participatory methods as a means of building "resilience", or in other words, the consistent ability to absorb shocks and adjust to events, no matter what form they may take. This occurs at all levels, in the communities exposed to disaster as well as the institutional systems in charge of managing emergencies. The new culture of preparedness and rituals of resilience that populate current catastrophe scenarios seem to respond to a shared objective: permanent adaptation within and through crisis. The panel gathers analyses of an ethnographic type that cast light on these mechanisms. It particularly encourages papers that closely analyze the methods by which these new tools for "domestication of uncertainty" are conceived, spread, and put into practice in cases of catastrophe.