CORDIS - EU research results

Organizing Disaster. Civil Protection and the Population

Final Report Summary - OD (Organizing Disaster. Civil Protection and the Population)

The project “Organising Disaster. Civil Protection and the Population” sought to analyse how civil protection exercises work and how in these exercises the relationship between the state and the population is imagined and realized. Further, it aimed to study the relationship between civil protection and the population historically and in actual events. The project compared three different states, Switzerland, India, and the UK, because of their very different organizational setups. The project analysed these cases with the help of archival research and ethnographic fieldwork. The project has analysed how in the different cases risk is related to the emergence of civil protection organisations. We have shown that civil protection organisations cannot be explained as answers to objectively existing threats, but that different historical trajectories of imagining and materializing risk account for the different organizational realities. With regard to exercises, the project has highlighted important differences related to how the organisations relate to the population, in particular, highlighting the difference between an organisation based on draft, such as in Switzerland and other organisations. The project has also shown however, that exercises do share an underlying logic that is based on differing versions of realism. Notably, we distinguish between a theatrical realism, such as in public demonstrations aimed at particular audiences, a scientific or technical realism aimed at testing organisations and technologies and a bodily realism aimed at repetitions of movements and practices. Finally, the project has analysed how civil protection relates to the population, elaborating important differences between the all inclusive form (such as in Switzerland) and more fractured and professionalized forms (such as in the UK or India). For the latter, vulnerability emerged as a central topic to mediate between civil protection organisations and different groups of the population and to make decisions about who should get help. At the same time, vulnerability also opens up deeply political questions about who gets help and who does not. The project has drawn attention to cultural and situational differences between the different cases and helps to dispel ideas that the organisiation of disaster management is a direct answer to disasters, but rather that material and situational practices account for differences. Doing so it has drawn on and contributed to ongoing discussions in Science and Technology Studies, Organisational Studies, and Theories of Risk.