All Hazard Disaster Approaches and the Expansion of Expertise

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 15:30
Oral Presentation
Luca TRATSCHIN, University of Lucerne, Switzerland
Modern society sees itself confronted with a wide range of risks. As is well known, contemporary risk society relies heavily on scientific expertise: Scientifically trained experts offer risk-assessments to political administrations or the general public and explain how one should deal with risks.

Sociology has a long tradition of investigating the way in which experts frame risk problems and thereby uncovering the social situatedness of their assessments. It regularly points out that lay assessments of risk-problems may in fact be more sensible than technocratic views on risks. While these sociological critiques of experts are mainly external to risk-discourses, one can currently observe interesting developments in political strategies dealing with catastrophic risks, which take these sociological arguments substantially into account (while not necessarily being aware of them).

While political administrations used to create specific plans for specific risk-scenarios, they are re-organizing their catastrophic preparedness strategies more and more towards a so called all hazard approach. Since this approach is supposed to cover all catastrophic events, a correspondingly wide range of technocratic expertise is involved in catastrophic planning. Furthermore, one can observe that lay perspectives and knowledge are becoming more important in all hazard strategies. These two developments create interesting tensions in regard to the status of expertise: A wide range of experts and lay-persons is anticipated to be involved in identifying catastrophic threats and dealing with them. The question arises: Who is an expert for what?

In my presentation, I will study the status of experts and "hybrid" forms of lay-experts in all hazard approaches to pandemic influenza. The main idea of my contribution is that we should gain sociological insight into participant concepts of expertise if we study cases where expertise is not clear-cut and were there are possible overlaps in "jurisdictions" of different kinds of experts.