Doctor of Philosophy
Library & Information Science
The domain of disaster risk management is rife with discursive contentions, whereby dominant discourses amplify the powers of risk actors to precipitate and reinforce political, economic, and environmental inequalities that predispose different sections of the population to unequal disaster risk vulnerabilities. This thesis identified important actors (government, risk experts, media, and NGOs) that shape the power dynamics in disaster risk management in Canada and explained their roles, influences, and the dimensions in which their powers negotiate each other through risk discourses. The patterns of these power dynamics in the three aspects of power –communication, assessment, and social trust –were also developed to provide a detailed description of how they form hegemonies that produce disaster inequality. The Power Amplified Risk Discourse (PARD) framework provides a theoretical framework for investigating the roles of discourses in creating and sustaining these power imbalances. PARD is an adaptation of the Social Amplification of Risk Framework (SARF) which can explain the complex cognitive, technical, and social dimensions to selective risk interpretations. Accordingly, PARD uses documentary and critical discourse analyses to investigate the roles of discourses in shaping the assessment and interpretation practices that reflect risk power imbalances. Analyses of the discursive and social practices also revealed that in many cases, these powers do not oppose each other, but rather work cooperatively to foist a risk hegemony as a means of self-perpetuation in risk management decision-making. The study also concludes that technical expertise, social trust, and privileged access to media constitute the biggest power factors for shaping risk discourse. Additionally, topic modeling and thematic analysis of social media data revealed the social impacts that could be directly attributed as the social consequences of these discursive power dynamics. The study suggests that the decentralized access to risk information and the growing distrust for institutional expertise significantly account for the social responses to power amplification in risk discourses. The study recommends a more inclusive approach to risk management and calls for restoration of trust between institutions and the public. Recommendations were also made for future research.
Summary for Lay Audience
Discourse refers to how we express our understanding of the relationships between people, things, and the organization of society through our thoughts and communications in different contexts. The field of discourse is a naturally contentious one whereby different social actors project their worldviews through contest of discourses for favorable outcomes. Social actors create and sustain power imbalance via discourses hence, discourses are instruments for differential power relations. Discursive contest also plays significant roles in shaping the domain of disaster risk management. Herein, discursive contentions amplify the social powers of various risk actors to precipitate and reinforce political, economic, and environmental inequalities which in turn predispose different sections of the population to uneven risk vulnerabilities when disasters strike. Consequently, the primary aim in this thesis is to investigate how power dynamics in disaster risk management in Canada precipitate variances in risk vulnerability and disaster outcomes for everyone through the instrumentation of discourses. Moreover, the study also intends to show that examining distinctive forms of powers can give insights into how discourses contribute to uneven risk outcomes for different sections of the society.
This thesis employed the Power Amplified Risk Discourse (PARD) Framework to investigate the roles of discourses in creating the power differences (around risk communication, assessment, and social trust) that precipitate disaster inequalities and risk vulnerabilities. This thesis identifies the roles and influences of important actors that shape the power dynamics in disaster risk management in Canada and the different forms of powers they hold. The patterns of these power dynamics were demonstrated to provide a description of how they produce disaster inequality. In many cases, these powers do not counter each other, but rather work cooperatively to foist a risk hegemony as a means of self-perpetuation in risk management decision-making. It is also concluded that technical expertise, social trust (i.e., credibility), and privileged access to media constitute the biggest power factors for shaping risk discourses. The thesis ended with the identification of a few social impacts that could be directly attributed as the social consequences of these discursive power dynamics. Recommendations for practice and research were also prescribed.
Olu-Omotayo, Martins Oluwole, "Discourse, Power Dynamics, and Risk Amplification in Disaster Risk Management in Canada" (2022). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 9043.
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