We are pleased to announce this Call for Papers for the SoRU 21 conference “Multidimensional Risks in the XXI Century“.
Risk and uncertainty are defining features of current political and media discourses and of a wider cultural Zeitgeist. Amid processes of reflexive modernisation where existing categories and beliefs are called into question, the need for new categories, analytical frameworks and ideas for studying how risk and uncertainty are interwoven within every aspect of everyday life becomes increasingly apparent. Processes of globalization, and their economic, social and political dimensions, give rise to new forms of risk and contribute to changing strategies of intervention by the state and other actors. Meanwhile the models of interplay across different actors and their respective spheres of influence continue to shift. All that was thought of as solid and long-lasting seems to ‘melt into air’, as Marx once put it. New tools are required and this conference welcomes contributions on the analysis of uncertainty and risk or, moreover, regarding the communication of uncertainty and risk.
One core feature of the conference is a stream of sessions exploring how these changing dynamics influence life in the growing megacities of the world. From the environmental costs of its existence to the socio-economic processes that take place there and model new relationships and spatial configurations, urban areas seem to be the ideal research ground for this kind of enterprise. Cities are no longer merely places where strangers meet (Sennett) but have become the stage where macro-processes and micro-strategies clash and adapt to one another – generating new forms of vulnerability and coping in the process. New and unforeseen forms of grassroots relationality may emerge here, such as associationism and cultural or solidarity networks, as a reaction against a depersonalizing functional pressure in banlieues as well as in abandoned historical centres. New lifestyles and rituals are also appearing, some of which are uneasy to read with the usual dichotomy constructive/destructive, such as new forms of nightlife, parties, and practices related to being together and to sex. As a consequence, the identification of new risks in urban areas has allowed the birth of new definitions of “urban security” which, according to the new approaches, are closely related to the analysis of citizens’ understandings of risk and have consequences and effects on smaller cities. The concerns raised by those living in large, segmented cities include urban decay, social exclusion, lack of services, and a more general erosion of the foundations of local communities. Some of these popular concerns leave room for unfounded alarmism and repressive policies, with these responses exacerbating the sense of uncertainty among some citizens and strongly influencing local and national political life.