CFP: 4S Panel on Mediation, Probability, and Environmental Risk

Lisa Han's picture

We are currently inviting paper proposals for our open panel call on "Mediation, Probability, and Environmental Risk" at the next Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) meeting.

Deadline: March 1, 2021

Risk has always been environmental. Its origins are in maritime insurance, providing a bulwark against potential losses from travel through stormy seas. Today, statistics and probability mediate our definitions of environmental extremes, abnormal events, and the thresholds at which they occur for phenomena such as global warming and its resultant impacts. If, as Ulrich Beck argued, we are living in a risk society, then in the era of the Anthropocene, this entails an acute awareness of environmental risks.

Media are privileged tools through which to represent and understand environmental risk, including discourses of peak oil, carbon budgets, and viral projects like the climate clock in New York City. From scenario planning to speculative countdowns, mediations of risk “make predictable and manage the production of affects like anxiety, fear, and even shock” (Neves 2020, 349). Confronting a moment of radical environmental uncertainty, this panel asks, how do measurements, models and other media shape and control the material risks associated with environmental change? How might we conceptualize the relationship between environmental risk, uncertainty, probability theory, and its history?”

Finally, we cannot ignore the role of a risk society in creating environmental crises, as the depletion economies built around speculative capital produce both social inequalities and environmental precarity. We encourage prospective panelists to consider issues of environmental and social justice: what constitutes “good relations” when it comes to living with environmental risk? What kind of role can STS play in providing us with just, affirmative, and decolonial visions for environmental citizenship?

List of references​​​​​

  1. Beck, Ulrich. "From industrial society to the risk society: Questions of survival, social structure and ecological enlightenment." Theory, Culture & Society 9, no. 1 (1992): 97-123.

  2. Ghosh, Bishnupriya, and Bhaskar Sarkar, eds. The Routledge Companion to Media and Risk. New York, NY: Routledge, 2020.

  3. Molly Wallace, Risk Criticism: Precautionary Reading in an Age of Environmental Uncertainty. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2016.

  4. Levy, Jonathan. "Radical uncertainty." Critical Quarterly 62, no. 1 (2020): 15-28.

  5. Uncertain Commons. Speculate This! Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013.

Please submit through the 4S conference submission portal. To submit, you need to create a 4S account first. Then click the "Submit Now" button at the bottom of the following linked page, and select Papers for Open Panels to find our panel:

Contact: Lisa Han or Derek Woods