Presentation at the ANU Sociology Department

I was fortunate enough to give a talk at the ANU (Australia National University) Sociology department last week. I was a little worried about speaking to sociologists, but they were incredibly welcoming and the questions were extremely valuable.

Here is the abstract:

Amongst debates over the management of environmental risk, an important theme has been the involvement of publics (Irwin, 1995) and the legitimacy of public knowledge (Collins and Evans, 2002). In terms of flood management in Bangladesh, public knowledge has informed critiques of dominant practices by demanding the democratisation of the knowledges deemed legitimate. To date, the ramifications of this situation have gone unexplored. Drawing on interviews with more than fifty decision-making experts, this analysis finds that public knowledge has been accepted as legitimate, seemingly capitulating to a long-standing criticism. Local and expert knowledges are now commonly incorporated within flood management, blurring any distinction between the two. Unfortunately, in a somewhat absurd twist, the informal knowledge and experiences shaping flood management appear to be the recollections, opinions, and anecdotes of the power-holding experts. The experts have re-established their authority by deploying their own lay knowledges-experiences as a way of including lay knowledge without including ‘others’. In terms of the democratisation of governance, the flood management case study suggests that power-holders have been re-empowered by arguments designed to make flood management more representative.

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