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Conceptual Session II: National Cultures and the Challenges of Compartive Study

We’ve been skirting aroud the issue of natinoal cultures, cultural difference, essentialism, (self-)orientalism (e.g. “Made in Japan”). At the very beginning of the workshop, Scott Frickel also pushed us to consider the particularism (specificity o individual) of disaster case studies and the challenges of comparative analysis.

First, please pose below QUESTIONS (not answers) that we need to address with regards to these related issues.

THEN, please post your replies to the questions posed by others using the “reply” button that follows a question or someone else’s comment.
(We should be able to do nested replies; I believe we’re limited to three level of nested replies which is probably right. If this is constraining, let me know, and I can change the settings in situ.)

Great Fun!

  1. Paul has raised the question of whether “risk governance” is a helpful term. I do appreciate this point and have been thinking about about it. I didn’t have time during the discussion to comment that when I use the term I often add the modifier: “democratic risk governance.” The idea is that we need to address risks in a way that’s fair, equitable, and participatory (think Habermas, or better, later rearticulations of Habermas by various democracy theorists). With this context ion mind, I’ll ask whether or how concepts of democracy are different across national and/or contexts, and how such differences might apply to questions of technological or technosocial risk.

  2. As part of our discussion yesterday we briefly explored differences in academic tradition (general tendencies regarding scale, depth, patterns of generalization), differences that pose two significant questions:

    1) How can these differences be bridged so that the extensive, well-documented Japanese experience with disasters — primarily anthropogenic, as well as those less anthropogenic — can be used to inform broader understandings of event sources, processes and outcomes?

    2) Reversing direction, what needs to be done to make non-Japanese understandings of these issue useful (academic and policy utility) in learning more about Japan’s experiences with disastrous events?

    (These questions are generalizable to other internationally comparative academic/policy endeavors.)

    The range in scale of the various projects presented here, and the tendency in the 20th century to increase the number and variety of parties that claim to be stakeholders in any given locality (extension of central government involvement, international corporate investments/access to resources, international relief organizations, for example) pose a huge question of how different levels of involvement can be encompassed in both research and policy.


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