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Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Publication details for Professor Ben Anderson

Anderson, B. Governing Emergencies: The Politics of Delay and the Logic of Response. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. 2015;41:14-26.

Author(s) from Durham


The paper focuses on the problematisation of delay in state response to the event of 7/7 in the UK in 2005 as a way of understanding how emergencies are governed. It argues that the widespread political, public and organisational concern in the UK with the delayed state is one expression of a distinct logic of governing emergencies: response. Focusing on the declaration of a ‘major incident’ by the UK emergency services, the paper argues that the logic of response is expressed in the tension between acting in an ‘interval’ as a space-time of emergence and the generation of ‘intervals’ for action. As well as following how the logic of response operates in UK emergency management, the paper offers a conceptual vocabulary designed to understand the multiplicity of ways in which emergencies are governed. Emergency is conceptualised as a ‘mode of eventfulness’ (Berlant L 2011 Cruel optimism Duke University Press, London) characterised by the hope that action will make a difference as harms, damages or losses emerge. The government of emergency involves situations ‘becoming-emergency’ through particular combinations of apparatuses of emergency and logics. The concern in the UK with delay in response to 7/7 is one example of the intersection of the logic of response with a particular apparatus based on a biopolitics of survival and the promise that lives can be saved by treating emergencies as logistical challenges.