Project

When disasters hit, the state sends specialised organisations to cope with the situation. These organisations are often hierarchical and they have great powers to re-organize the population, to tell people where to go, to give or withhold both material and other forms of help. Disaster situations are thus in many ways pre-structured by the programmes of these organisations and how they conceptualize the population.

In our project we seek to analyze the encounter between civil protection as state organisation and the population. What happens when civil protection encounters the population in case of disasters? How does civil protection conceive of the population and how does it influence what happens in case of disasters? Is the population seen as uniform or as composed of different groups? How are these groups addressed? Does civil protection simply attempt to restore a previous state or change society into a given direction? How does the population conceive of civil protection in turn?

By drawing on Science and Technology Studies civil protection is analysed as a knowledge-based, organised attempt to order society with the help of various technologies. The project seeks to answer the above questions by combining document analysis of civil protection manuals, participant observation of civil protection trainings and qualitative interviews in the aftermath of flood-disasters. The empirical fields are England, Switzerland and India, to allow for comparison of different forms of centralization and professionalization of civil protection organisations.