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Study released on the evolution of cultural knowledge about coping with river-related risks

On the discursive construction of vulnerability and resilience

News from Sep 08, 2021

Why is climate change often perceived as a minor problem in Eastern Europe than in Western Europe? Why is technical flood prevention preferred in Poland while planners in Germany aim to build "space for water"? The "communicative construction" assumes that culturally shared knowledge as the aforementioned is created through communication processes, namely discourses. However, this phenomenon has not been investigated thoroughly so far in terms of coping with natural hazards like flood risks.

In an article recently published in Space and Culture, Heimann et al. examine the relation between actor-specific knowledge and collectively presented knowledge from (media) discourses (discoursive construction). Furthermore they scrutinize in how far river-related knowledge is sociogeographically and historically bound. Therefore, they compare three forms of cultural knowledge: (1) The river-related shared knowledge of inhabitants in flood zones along the Odra river in the present, (2) relevant topics, that were discussed with regard to flood risks in local newspapers since the great Odra river flood in 1997 until the present, and (3) the manner in which natural conditions and river-related risks have been dealt with in German and Polish literature since the renaissance.

The analysis shows that observed differences in the present handling of river-related risks roots in distant historical processes in German and Polish language. Additionally, the authors show that the actor-specific knowledge about vulnerability and resilience within the study areas is embedded in sociogeographically situated discoursive processes of collective knowledge systems. Cultural differences, hence, do not emerge in an essentialist way but are evolved and reproduced through communication processes and participation in discourses.

The article can be accessed here.

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