Concrete governmentality: shelters and the transformations of preparedness

Deville, Joe; Guggenheim, Michael and Hrdličková, Zuzana. 2014. Concrete governmentality: shelters and the transformations of preparedness. Sociological Review, 62(S1), pp. 183-210. ISSN 0038-0261 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article analyses how shelters act as a form of concrete governmentality. Shelters, like other forms of preparedness, are political acts in the absence of a disaster. They are materializations and visualizations of risk calculations. Shelters as a type of concrete governmentality pose the question of how to build something that lasts and resists, and remains relevant both when the object that is being resisted keeps changing and when the very act of building intervenes so publically in the life of the restless surrounding population. Comparing shelters in India, Switzerland and the UK, we highlight three transformations of preparedness that shelters trigger. First we analyse how shelters compose preparedness by changing the relationship between the state and its citizens. Rather than simply limiting risk or introducing “safety”, the building of shelters poses questions about who needs protection and why and, as we will show, this can generate controversy. Second, we analyse how shelters decompose preparedness by falling out of use. Third, we focus on struggles to recompose preparedness: Changing ideas about disasters thus lead to shelters being suddenly out of place, or needing to adapt.

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Research Funding: European Research Council. Grant Number: GA 263731 OD


shelters; materiality; risk; nuclear war; preparedness

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18 March 2014Published

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Date Deposited:

12 Jan 2015 10:47

Last Modified:

21 Apr 2021 15:00

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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