The project aims at understanding how adequate knowledge about natural hazards forms. This greatly affects the ability of humanity to manage such threats. On the one hand, natural hazards management is a complex task and no single group is able to accumulate sufficient information and intellectual resources to cope with it. On the other hand, the practical knowledge of specific natural conditions and sociotechnical characteristics of natural hazards management in a certain territory is developed by the local community inhabiting this territory. The success of natural hazards management depends to a large extent on interaction between the local community knowledge and the institutional expert knowledge, accumulated by authorities, non-governmental organisations, companies and other non-local stakeholders. Today, international and national regulations stress the need to involve local communities into the process of elaborating and implementing decisions on natural hazards management. However, the implementation of these regulations is problematic because finding a common ground between local and expert knowledge is a challenge. This impedes the use of best practices by local communities and makes it difficult to take into account the unique practical experience of local communities and local characteristics of the hazard-prone territories. As a result, societal resilience to climate risks is lower that it could be.
The aim of this project is finding how knowledge of the local communities that inhabit hazard-prone territories interacts with expert knowledge of the institutions responsible for natural hazard management. There is a considerable number of participatory research projects aimed at identifying conditions and ways to include local knowledge creators in the decisionmaking process of natural hazards management. Meanwhile, very little is known about the internal structure and the mechanisms of interaction between local and expert systems of knowledge of natural hazards. This hampers further development of research, as well as the development of natural hazards management.
The lack of understanding of how local and expert knowledge systems interact in the applied research on natural hazards management corresponds to one of the main puzzles of the social sciences in general: the relation between the local knowledge/culture and the broadly shared knowledge/culture. While the main theoretical and methodological approaches in social sciences focus on the dualism of the two, empirical studies of social knowledge production focus on either.
Empirical research informed by the institutional theory considers knowledge as a system of different meanings imposed to different social roles, while the interactionism-driven research bets on social relations in local communities. At the same time, both approaches increasingly face the need to explain the empirically encountered interactions of local and institutional knowledge beyond their sole explanatory capacities: on the one hand, the emergence of knowledge traversing institutional logics, and on the other hand - the evident external constraints on the local knowledge creation. Thus, both approaches reveal the need for finding the mechanisms of interaction between institutional and local knowledge. Empirical studies of local transformation of institutionally disseminated knowledge are emerging. However, the specific structural mechanisms of the mutual influence between local and institutional knowledge systems in the context of social ties within local communities are yet to be identified.
Hence, the project aimed at identifying the mechanisms of interaction between local and expert knowledge in the context of social ties in local hazard-prone communities has significant novelty and relevance for the development of the social sciences, at least in two dimensions. First, identifying how systems of local and expert ecological knowledge on natural hazards interact will open up new opportunities for the applied natural hazard management research worldwide, and also significantly stimulate the development of disaster sociology and sustainable development studies. Second, identifying the fundamental mechanisms of interaction between local and institutional knowledge contributes to solving one of the key puzzles of social sciences: the relationship between the micro and the macro levels of society.
The project (Co-PIs: Nikita Basov and Kseniia Puzyreva) is conducted within the CGES research area ‘Creativity, Communities, and Public Spaces in Germany, Europe and Russia’.
The project is supported by the Russian Science Foundation.
- Nikita Basov, Saint Petersburg State University, Russia
- Ksenia Puzyreva, St. Petersburg State University, Russia
- Iina Riikka Hellsten, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands
- Johan Koskinen, University of Melbourne, Australia
- Camille Roth, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany
- Vera Minina, Saint Petersburg State University, Russia
- Julia Brennecke, University of Liverpool, the UK
- Irina Kretser, St. Petersburg State University, Russia
- Alexander Pivovarov, St. Petersburg State University, Russia
- Artem Antonyuk, St. Petersburg State University, Russia
- Olga Nikiforova, St. Petersburg State University, Russia
- Pete Jones, University of Manchester, the UK
- Darkhan Medeuov, University of Leipzig, Germany