54. Crisis reckoning: Inquiries as sociotechnical devices

Kari Lancaster, University of New South Wales, Sydney; Timothy Neale, Deakin University; Tim Rhodes, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine/UNSW;

Inquiries convened in the aftermath of crises perform a public reckoning. While such inquiries are often used by political elites to cool off and contain 'hot situations' (Callon, 1998), they also produce opportunities for a range of actors to contest and define crises, their causes, their evidence, and what is to be done 'after' in order to prepare for what is yet to come. This panel explores the governing effects of crisis-related inquiries, including those relating to pandemics and epidemics, natural disasters, critical infrastructure failures, and toxic pollution. We ask 'what do inquiries do'? We invite conceptual and empirical contributions that seek to explore the various dimensions of crisis-related inquires: their performative dimensions (e.g., how evidence is made through inquiries, how concerned publics are called into being, how inquiries act as 'social dramas' or rituals that work to contain the political consequences of hazardous events, how 'crisis' itself is enacted, etc.), their temporalizing dimensions (e.g., how inquiries produce time and temporal boundaries as they consider what has come 'before' and anticipate possible futures, etc.), and their spatial dimensions (e.g., how inquires produce space and spatial boundaries, how they govern in relation to localised effects of ongoing ecological crises and perform places 'at risk,' etc.). In doing so, this panel grapples with how inquiries are put to use as sociotechnical devices of crisis governance that work to settle (or open up) controversies in uncertain worlds.

Contact: k.lancaster@unsw.edu.au, t.neale@deakin.edu.au, Tim.Rhodes@lshtm.ac.uk

Keywords: Controversies, Forms and Practices of Expertise, Governance and Public Policy, Inquiry; evidence; crisis; epidemics; natural disasters; critical infrastructure failures; governance; sociotechnical devices.

Published: 04/07/2023