8 May 2012 5:00pm - 7:00pm CRASSH, Seminar room SG2, Ground floor


Dr Michael Guggenheim (Centre for the Study of Invention and Social Process, Goldsmiths University of London)

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.



A seminar organised by Between Civilisation and Militarisation group (CRASSH)  in conjunction with the Twentieth Century Think Tank group (Dept. of the History and Philosophy of Science)


Open to all.  No registration required.

Part of Between Civilisation and Militarisation Group, series.
For more information about the group please click the link on the right hand of this  page 

Upcoming Events


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk