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Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Publication details for Professor Ben Anderson

Adey, P. & Anderson, B. Event and Anticipation: UK Civil Contingencies and the Space-Times of Decision. Environment and Planning A. 2011;43:2878-2899.

Author(s) from Durham


What is the relation between security and a decision? How should decisions be taken as events unfold in unpredictable, aleatory, ways? And how are decisions made and constituted in particular and therefore differential security contexts? The paper draws on observations of ‘strategic’ exercises in UK Civil Contingencies, sites in which ‘multiagency’ responders take decisions in relation to the events that make up a range of crises, breakdowns, and interruptions. UK Civil Contingencies has a complicated relation with decision which challenges the predominance of approaches which prioritise the ‘sovereign decision’ as a preemptive act. On the one hand, the dream of emergency planners is of a decentred anticipatory system without the need for the event of decision, in which a distributed set of responders are primed to snap into action at the onset of an event and to follow protocols for how to connect and act together. On the other hand, and faced with the contingency of events and the mutability of the response network, decision is not erased, automated, or deferred but proliferates and, sometimes, is very difficult to make. Decisions have to constantly be taken about who to act with and how to act when faced with what the event could become: that is, when faced by the event's potential and, importantly, the complexity of response. In the paper we explore the relation between security and decision by outlining how the ‘exercise’ functions within emergency planning as a privileged site for the staging and performing of decisions.