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01.08.2012 | Wissenschaftlicher Beitrag | Ausgabe 4/2012

Raumforschung und Raumordnung |  Spatial Research and Planning 4/2012

Vulnerability and Resilience in a Socio-Spatial Perspective

A Social-Scientific Approach

Zeitschrift:
Raumforschung und Raumordnung | Spatial Research and Planning > Ausgabe 4/2012
Autoren:
PD Dr. Gabriela B. Christmann, Prof. Dr. Oliver Ibert

Abstract

This paper argues that the conceptions of “vulnerability” and “resilience”, which have been strongly influenced by ecology and natural hazards research, have been widely used in an essentialist manner. Thus, vulnerability is treated as the factual susceptibility and resilience as the factual adaptive capacity of systems, which are measurable by certain indicators. Although in the meantime social dimensions have received greater consideration than previously and although both notions have been transferred to a wider field of phenomena ranging from technology to economy and society, the conception of vulnerability and resilience still lacks the dimension of the social construction of reality that implies that actors may develop different perceptions of potential threats and of the precautionary measures that are to be adopted—even though the nature of an endangerment seems clear and proven. In this contribution we identify major conceptual desiderata and suggest a social science based conception of vulnerability and resilience addressing them. We take up ideas from social constructivism in the form pointed out in actor-network theory. We dissolve the tired dichotomy between social and material entities and instead emphasise that all kinds of entities have the same ontological status and thus interact directly with one another on the same level (‘flat ontology’). Against the background of a generic definition of governance, questions of agency in networks will be addressed. Based on a relational understanding of space, a spatial research perspective will be developed also taking into account the dimension of time. Finally the conception comprises an empirical strategy for investigating vulnerability and resilience.

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