Community cohesion as safe living: delimiting the obligations to and dangers of proximity

Anne-Marie Fortier – Sociology, Lancaster University

In this paper I discuss how ‘cohesion’ figures in government policy strategies targeted at local communities and neighbourhoods. By going to the ‘ways of seeing’ that policy documents open up, I consider how policy discourses ‘figure social life in certain imaginary ways’ (Butler 2002). I argue that community cohesion is a governing strategy that designs particular groups and practices both in and out of the social space of locality. Defined most recently as promoting ‘safe and tolerant communities that are close, vibrant [and] resilient’ (Cabinet Office 2007), cohesion is conceived as the antidote to violence, conflict and the threats posed my terrorism and extremism. In this paper, I consider how the politics of community cohesion have shifted, since 2001, from celebrating diversity as an asset to making diversity a destabilising factor for local communities. I consider the implications of this shift in the reconfiguration of Britain’s multicultural ethnoscape, which is refracted through class, race, gender and generation (note that I will not have time to develop all of these in the paper). Overall, I argue that policy discourses on community cohesion discursively emplace individuals within webs of social or institutional interactions that prescribe ways of living (together) and feeling for the community. Thus the management of diversity is not only about the management of encounters in literal spatial forms (such as linking projects bussing kids between ‘faith schools’) but these relations are imagined through specific emotional and ethical injunctions such as mixing, tolerance and adhering to ‘core civic values’. Moreover, these injunctions are imagined in the ambivalent spatial terms of obligations to and dangers of proximity.

Buried But Not Forgotten?: The Secret of Yucca Mountain

Yucca Mountain repository diagram Nuclear waste markers Landscape of Thorns Blue Yucca plant nuclear waste markers

Brian P. Bloomfield & Theo Vurdubakis – Department of Organisation, Work and Technology, Lancaster University

ABSTRACT: Yucca Mountain in Nye County, Nevada (USA), is the site of a very ambitious project to construct an underground repository for high-level nuclear waste. The object of scientific research and planning for over 20 years, and still facing significant political and legal challenges, the project aims to transport thousands of tons of radioactive waste from sites across the USA for storage at Yucca Mountain where it is meant to be kept safe for some10,000 years. Examination of the project highlights the relationships between social boundaries (proximity), language, and risk, geology and technoscience, in which the effort to realise safety materially (through the repository, and its situation within the local geology and geography) is complemented by efforts to communicate the dangers held within the mountain to the unknown (and unknowable) peoples of the distant future.

LINKS:

US department of Energy: Civilian Radioactive Waste Management

Yucca Mountian homepage

Peter Schwartz (founder of Global Business Network & wrote The Art of the Long View: see my FOSK blog entry) writes about the future of Yucca Mountain on The Long Now Foundation blog

Death in the Wrong Place: altered lifescapes of the 2001 Foot & Mouth Disease disaster

cows.png

Foot and Mouth Disease Lifescapes’ – Maggie Mort, Institute for Health Research, Lancaster University

In May 2003, two years and three months after the outbreak of the world’s worst epidemic of Foot & Mouth Disease, a small group of people gathered on a bleak windy former airfield site to commemorate the slaughter and burial of more than one million farm animals. Great Orton was the largest disposal site in Cumbria, the county in Britain worst hit by the disaster. The former airfield became the scene of a massive disposal operation in 2001 after the British army was brought in to handle a crisis prompted by the sheer scale of the slaughter. The mass slaughter, often of healthy animals taken out under the contiguous cull, ‘dangerous contact’ rationales, or simply misdiagnosed, was all the more horrific because of its being out of place and out of time. This talk explores some of the alterations and disruptions to places, and the sense of place, enforced by the 2001 disaster. Such alterations involved both the symbolic/exotic, as in the memorial site at Great Orton or the acquisition of the ‘culled’ identity, and the everyday nexus of people/place/work routines. Combined, such disruption to so many aspects of individual and community lifescapes created a deep sense of disorder:

“There was no normality, normality had gone.” The term lifescape is used as a vehicle for the complexity of spatial, emotional and ethical dimensions of the relationship between landscape, livestock, farming and rural communities.

Download >The Foot & Mouth Disease Lifescapes presentation

The prison cell and the third space

priosn-cell-model.jpg

Happiness is Door-Shaped: Issues of Control and Safety in Prison – Anita Wilson, Literacy research centre, Lancaster University

‘Happiness is door shaped’ is a phrase well-known to those of us who undertake long-term sustained prison ethnographies. We hear it uttered by disillusioned, ‘old-style’ prison officers who are uncomfortable with contemporary prison policy and its ‘modern’ ideas of prisoner rehabilitation through socialisation rather than isolation. Happiness for these officers is achieved by putting prisoners ‘behind the door’, thus creating a protective barrier that maintains the distance between ‘us’ (the keepers) and ‘them’ (the kept). Confining prisoners to their cells appears to make these officers feel secure, protecting them from risk of attack, disease, or emotional attachment to or from prisoners.

Ironically, while not exactly ‘happy’, and albeit for quite different reasons, many prisoners are agreeable to such distanciation. What officers see as confinement, prisoners see as liberation. Time spent ‘behind the door’ provides them with a much needed opportunity for contemplation, for ‘personal’ time, and for relaxation. What staff see as punitive, prisoners see as a welcome escape from their day to day proximity to shouting, jostling, fighting, bullying, anger, fear and distress.

However, while ‘door-shaped happiness’ for officers is achieved through the single act of protecting themselves from contact with prisoners, ‘ door-shaped happiness’ for prisoners involves engagement with complex and continual acts of transformation, which take on any number of subtle and personalised forms, and respond to the status of the person and the place in which they find themselves. They identify some nuanced strategies for resilience and survival, that draw on the practices of social rather than institutional worlds.

This paper takes a look behind various prison doors to reveal how prisoners create some of their own places of ‘safe living’ as a way of countering the ‘door-shaped unhappiness’ of imposed confinement.

‘The School Journey: visible and invisible dangers’

A childs depiction of air pollution and the school journey

Pollution data


Duncan Whyatt and Marion Walker, Geography, Lancaster University

ABSTRACT:

This paper stems from an ESRC funded project that uses a combination of traditional and novel techniques to gain a deeper understanding of the school journey. A group of 30 teenagers were asked to use a customised mobile phone application, which automatically recorded their routes, to take photographs and write texts to describe their journeys. These images and texts were subsequently used in interviews with the teenagers to explore factors influencing the choice of route. In this paper we focus on visible and invisible dangers associated with such journeys and consider how this information may be used in the design of safer journeys.

Download The school journey presentation

Secure Urbanism and Resilient Infrastructure – The New Politics of Ecological Security

The Infrastructure Security Partnership

Mike Hodson and Simon Marvin – Centre for Sustainable Urban and Regional Futures (SURF), Salford University

ABSTRACT: Secure urbanism and resilient infrastructure argues that a new logic is beginning to reshape the material development of urban infrastructure networks both within and between cities. World cities are strategically assessing the resilience of their critical infrastructure networks in a period of resource constraint and climate change and in response are developing strategies designed to ensure their continued reproduction. Conventional responses to resource issues have tended to focus on constantly extending the reach of cities’ socio-technical networks to draw in ever more distant energy, water and material resources. Yet concern about “ecological security” challenges such traditional strategies because the question of “systemic preparation” for a period of climate change and resource use becomes a fundamental criteria in assessing the degree to which cites can continue to (attempt) to guarantee their material reproduction. The paper argues that there are three critical elements to the new logic of infrastructure development. The first strategy concerns the degree to which cities are “strategically protected” in terms of their preparedness for adaptation – dealing with heat and enhancing flood protection infrastructure. The second strategy concerns the way that cities’ resource bases are “strategically resilient”, which is how cities can guarantee sufficient access to key energy resources and internal mobility that are low carbon and secure. Cities are attempting to strategically withdraw from national and regional infrastructure and develop new decentralised systems within the city to increase levels of self-sufficiency. The third strategy concerns the development of new “secure global agglomerations”, particularly of new mobility systems – biofuels, hydrogen, and hybrids that can guarantee continued interconnection between world cities. Using a range of evidence we seek to demonstrate that premium world cities are collectively developing this new logic of infrastructural development – often with national governments and key corporates. The paper seeks to outline the key elements of these new strategies that are themselves being touted as emblematic new configurations that can be unproblematically inserted into other contexts. Consequently we critically assess their relevance to ordinary cities and megacities of the global south.

Download Mike & Simons’s presentation> Secure Urbanism and Resilient Infrastructure

Locating Social Reponsibility: CCTV & Public Space

Jamie Bulger on CCTV

Department of Psychology, Lancaster University – Mark Levine and John Dixon

ABSTRACT:This paper will present data from a Home Office funded study of the impact of public order measures like CCTV surveillance and street drinking legislation on social relations in public space. The focus of the research was the town square in Lancaster city centre. Data comprised a survey (n=808) and in-situ interviews (n= 59) with users of the town square including teenagers, mothers with young children, homeless people, travellers, commercial workers and the elderly. The paper will concentrate on one emergent property of the analysis. Where most public order research focuses on concepts of ‘risk’ and ‘trust’, we explore the impact of CCTV surveillance on ideas of social responsibility. In particular, we present evidence that support for CCTV is related to lower feelings of responsibility for the welfare of others who might be co-present in public space. We consider this in terms of the idea of diffusion of responsibility to the CCTV apparatus. We also examine, against a background of high levels of support for CCTV, the tensions between ideas of freedom and accountability that are revealed in talk about that support. We draw these out by comparing and contrasting talk about CCTV cameras with talk about speed (Gatso) cameras.

A link to miquel mora’s Identity Protection System (IDPS) project

Download Mark & John’s presentation> Locating Social Reponsibility: CCTV & Public Space ppt