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Bunkers and other risk assessments: (im-)material calculations of military and natural disasters

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  • UserMichael Guggenheim (Goldsmiths, University of London)
  • ClockTuesday 08 May 2012, 17:00-19:00
  • HouseCRASSH, Seminar Room.

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Leon Rocha.

Please note that this seminar takes place from 5pm to 7pm at CRASSH Seminar Room SG2 . Co-organised with the Between Civilisation and Militarisation Group.

What is a risk assessment? How can a bunker be a risk assessment? Previous literature on risk, risk calculation and preparedness has either focused on different forms of preparedness or on how risk calculations as statistical devices are performed. This talk centres on the implicit and material dimensions of risk calculations through forms of preparedness. I argue that risk assessments are not just formal ways of calculating risks but implicit and often material practices. As such, implicit and material risk assessments were always made by societies which decided to prepare for some disasters but not others and which found specific preparation technologies such as building granaries or constructing houses in a way that makes them more likely to withstand earthquakes or avalanches. But in modern states organisations such as civil protection base their operations on these risk assessments as well. In my talk I will trace how the operations of civil defence organisations have shifted from focusing on nuclear war until the 1980s to natural disasters and all hazards approaches. Comparing Switzerland and the UK, I will show that calculative risk assessments were impossible because of the different qualities of the disasters and that implicit and material risk assessments were instrumental for changes in organizational policy.

This talk is part of the Twentieth Century Think Tank series.

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