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Keynote Speakers

































Gabriela B. ChristmannGabriela B. Christmann

Gabriela B. Christmann is a sociologist. She is Head of the Research Department Dynamics of Communication, Knowledge and Spatial Development at the Leibniz Institute for Regional Development and Structural Planning (IRS) in Erkner (near Berlin). Her main research fields include the sociology of knowledge and culture, urban sociology, communicative processes in the construction of spaces, climate change and local vulnerability, participative governance, and local climate governance.

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Constructing Vulnerability and Resilience – Introduction

Gabriela B. Christmann | Oliver Ibert

The paper argues that the conceptions of “vulnerability” and “resilience”, which have been strongly influenced by ecology and natural hazards research, have been widely used in an essentialist manner. Thus, vulnerability is treated as the factual susceptibility and resilience as the factual adaptive capacity of systems, which are measurable by certain indicators. Although in the meantime social dimensions have received greater consideration than previously and although both notions have been transferred to a wider field of phenomena ranging from technology to economy and society, the conception of vulnerability and resilience still lacks the dimension of the social construction of reality that implies that actors may develop different perceptions of potential threats and of the precautionary measures that are to be adopted – even though the nature of an endangerment seems clear and proven. In this contribution we identify major conceptual desiderata and suggest a social science based conception of vulnerability and resilience addressing them. We take up ideas from social constructivism in the form pointed out in actor-network theory. We dissolve the tired dichotomy between social and material entities and instead emphasise that all kinds of entities have the same ontological status and thus interact directly with one another on the same level (‘flat ontology’). Against the background of a generic definition of governance, questions of agency in networks will be addressed. Based on a relational understanding of space, a spatial research perspective will be developed also taking into account the dimension of time. Finally the conception comprises an empirical strategy for investigating vulnerability and resilience.

The Social Construction of Climate Change – Heterogeneous Perceptions of Risks and Resilience Building

Gabriela B. Christmann | Karsten Balgar

The paper reports from the research project “How societies deal with climate change” studying coastal cities of the southern North Sea and Baltic Sea and pursuing the following research question: How do societies construct climate change on different socio-spatial levels, that is, on a national, a regional, and particularly on a local level? To investigate vulnerability and resilience constructions, the project used a triangulation of methods. A sociology of knowledge approach to discourse analysing local newspaper articles was combined with a standardized Delphi-survey of experts. The results will show among other things that local interpretations may differ significantly irrespective of similarities in natural environments. For example, assessments of climate change in Lübeck suggest a great sense of security, once shaped by its Hanseatic roots: Given the fact that people of Lübeck have always defied the biggest challenges, they feel equally well-equipped to cope with the climate change-induced threats to come. This urban culture-based mode of interpretation does not, however, play any role in the perception of climate change in Rostock. Moreover, this East German city views climate change much more as an opportunity. Long periods of warmth might help to make the region more attractive to tourists which will have a positive effect on the job market and will make the city resilient compared to its precarious economic situation.


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