Absencing/presencing risk: Rethinking proximity and the experience of living with major technological hazards

Karen Bickerstaff, Peter Simmons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)
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There is now a substantial body of sociocultural research that has investigated the ways in which specific communities living in physical proximity with a variety of polluting or hazardous technological installations experience and respond to their exposure to the associated risk. Much of this research has sought to understand the apparent acceptance or acquiescence displayed by local populations towards established hazards of the kind that are typically resisted when the subject of siting proposals. However, recent theoretical contributions, produced largely outside the field of risk research, have problematised the objective distinction between proximity and distance. In this paper we explore the potential of some of these ideas for furthering our understanding of the relationship between place and the constitution of risk subjectivities. To do this we re-examine a number of existing sociocultural studies that are predicated on a localised approach and conceptualise the relationship of physically proximate sources of risk to everyday experience in terms of practices of 'presencing' and 'absencing'. We conclude with some thoughts on the methodological and substantive implications of this reworking of proximity for future research into risk subjectivities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)864-872
Number of pages9
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2009

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