International conference on fear and perceptions of risk in the modern world
(7 July 2005)
An international conference on the subject of fear in the modern world is taking place at Durham University next week (11th & 12th July)
It is being hosted by the Department of Geography’s Social Wellbeing and Spatial Justice research cluster where several researchers are working on fear and perceptions of risk.
The conference includes 28 speakers from seven countries, all speaking on the subject of fear in the modern world covering issues such as the effect international terrorism, the safety of children playing outdoors and local crime and disorder.
“Fear has greater currency in western societies than ever before. We are bombarded with information about new risks to our well-being and way of life, from cot death, juvenile crime and internet porn to dirty bombs, immigration and disease epidemics. These fears can sometimes lead to significant changes in our behaviour,” says Dr Rachel Pain, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, Department of Geography, Durham University, who is organising the conference.
Dr. Pain added : “However, the stereotype of a Britain paralysed by fear is misplaced. In the North East, we generally feel more insulated from panics about strangers, terrorists and gun crime - for example, children are more likely to play outdoors unsupervised here.”
Speakers will focus on two main areas. First, speakers will present research on where fears come from, what impacts they have, and who is most affected, at a variety of scales.
internationally, fear was used to support campaigns against Afghanistan and Iraq
nationally, political parties have sought to use fear of terrorism and immigration in the recent US and UK elections. National governments have also employed fear to justify policies such as youth justice, restrictions on workplace rights, and freedom of movement.
city centres are seeing increasing levels of surveillance, which, it is argued, clashes with the desire to make them more inclusive and people-friendly
locally, we have a tendency to worry about places which the evidence suggests are relatively safe – but the greatest risk of harm is inside the home Second, speakers will present evidence suggests that fear has a distinct geography.
there is little evidence that the UK population are very fearful of global events such as terrorist attacks
where you are creates anxiety - local incidents of crime and disorder closer to home, which people have first or second hand experience of, often produce the most fear
the people often demonised and seen as provoking fear in others, such as young people, the homeless, and asylum seekers, are the most likely to be affected by fear and the risk of harm
Notes to editors :
Dr Rachel Pain, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, Department of Geography, Durham University
Also available to speak to overview of conference themes.
Children’s outdoor safety in the UK – UK parents have recently been accused of being ‘paranoid’ about their children’s safety. Recent research with over 1,000 children in the north east suggests that this is misleading. While the popular image is of ignorant, over-protective parents molly-coddling their children in SUVs between school and ballet, the reality is very different for the majority of children, who live outside of affluent areas. The research mapped children’s fears – and those of their parents – against the locations where children had actually been victims of crime and violence, and found a high degree of similarity. It suggested that experiences within the local neighbourhood often drive fear. However, these experiences rarely end up in official statistics as they are unreported.
Professor Steve Graham, Department of Geography, Durham University Professor Graham is researching:
The use of everyday infrastructures in cities -- airliners, trains, cars, computers, electricity systems -- by terrorists and state militaries as 'weapons' to project fear and distribute violence
The fear and anxiety that pervades everyday life in cities that results from these attacks
What the use of urban infrastructure as 'weapons' by non-state and state actors means for urban life and our understandings of 'peace' and 'war'
Dr Kye Askins, Research Fellow, Department of Geography, Durham University
Ethnic minority use of national parks: monsters in the countryside
Drawing from research part-funded by the North York Moors national park, this paper critically explores how ethnic minorities are perceived as ‘rural others’ in contemporary Britain. I suggest that conceptualising ethnic minorities as monsters enables an honest approach to dealing with ethnic difference – in that it allows us to grapple with the ways in which minorities are excluded and reified (both responses rooted in absolute stereotypes), but also to progressively move beyond ethnic essentialism and be radically open to the ways in which ethnic minorities are, at the same time, both different and similar to white communities.
Carolyn Gaskell, PhD student, Department of Geography, Queen Mary, University of London
Inner-city young people’s experiences of violence and victimisation
If Blair's 'culture of respect' does not incorporate the views and experiences of marginalised young people, it will become another tool of exclusion. Inner-city young people experience their lives in terms of exclusion and 'disrespect' from society. This must be acknowledged and overcome. If not, a universal aim of respect cannot be met, and young people will simply be considered 'undeserving of respect'.
Dr Peter Hopkins, Lecturer in Geography, Lancaster University (with Professor Susan Smith, Professor of Human Geography, Durham University)
Young Muslim men, segregation and fear
The combination of location and appearance can and does have powerful influences over people's experiences of fear. Research with young Muslim men in Scotland shows that withdrawal from public space is true in residentially segregated, as well as integrated settings. Following the events of 11 September 2001, there is evidence to show that young Muslim men felt separated from the mainstream, because of fears about potential experiences of racism and exclusion in public places, and orientated increasingly towards the safety and security of the home and mosque.
Dr Alan Ingram, Lecturer in Geography, University College London
Infectious disease, fear and global security
The threats posed by infectious disease pandemics are a subject of increasing international concern, reinforcing the impression that we are living in a global era and challenging ideas of global security. But responses to past epidemics show that while fear of adverse events can motivate people to take necessary action, it can also reinforce existing patterns of exclusion and oppression. Critical geopolitics can help to reveal the mechanisms by which this occurs and thereby contribute to improved understanding of global interdependence.