Slow Emergencies Workshop

A new workshop sponsored by Governing Emergencies.

We will be hosting the Slow Emergencies Workshop in Adelaide between 2-4 July 2016.

We will be posting updates about the workshop over the next few months.

The workshop is supported by the Governing Emergencies Leverhulme Trust International Network, the School of Humanities and Languages, UNSW, the Hazards, Risks, Disasters Study Group of the Institute of Australian Geographers and the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT.

For enquiries about the workshop please contact Matthew Kearnes (@mbkearnes) orLauren Rickards (@LaurenARickards)

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How drones use algorithms to govern your life

Fascinating piece on how drones use algorithms to govern life: detecting ‘suspicious behaviour’, instructing and controlling movements, predicting what you are going to do next…

Open Geography

How do drones use computational methods such as algorithms to govern your life? Here are ten ways.

Many people think (non-military) drones are only used by hobbyists, and then only to fly small Go-Pro cameras around.

This is mistaken.

Following is a partial listing of other ways drones perform algorithmic calculations on people. All of these are already here. The lesson is not that drones can do this and it’s about drones; rather the lesson is that drones are being used in algorithmic governance more generally.

These are examples from my files. Mostly these are non-military/intelligence usages but that distinction is not entirely tenable given the streams of expertise and knowledge between military and non-military drone research.

  1. Drones can assess abnormal or “suspicious” behavior.

    Japanese security company Secom, starting in December, will offer a surveillance service using drones designed to detect and track suspicious vehicles and people. The drones can…

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Counting Loss: Governing Emergencies Workshop 3

We’re about to hold the third workshop of the Governing Emergencies series. This time we’ll be in New York from the 5th to 6th November 2015. The theme of the workshop is Counting Loss.

Quantitative measures of loss fill the days, weeks, months, and years following a disaster. The number of dead and injured, the total economic damage, the number of houses damaged or destroyed, and insured and uninsured losses, to name but a few, convey the event’s magnitude. Indeed, insurance uses the term ‘loss event’ to describe such catastrophes. Here, loss refers to a verifiable, quantifiable, monetary damage that must be repaired, restored, remunerated, or otherwise indemnified in order to overcome disaster and return to normalcy. But loss is not only a quantitative measure of past events. On the one hand, ‘loss’ may refer to a qualitative change that is specifically understood to be unmeasurable—a threshold, a break with the past, an event of individual or collective trauma. On the other hand, loss may also be a way of relating to or governing future disasters. A range of techniques to anticipate future disasters—from insurance to structural works to preparedness measures—require mechanisms to measure future loss through techniques such as catastrophe modelling or scenario-based exercises. Similarly, work on individual or collective trauma—such as memorials or museums—are a way of folding a calamitous past into the present and relating past loss to a collective future. The category of loss thus traverses the fractured temporality of emergencies and disaster. But the specific connections it establishes between the past, present and future, and the forms of social, political and ecological relations that become possible during and after a calamitous event, are contingent on the particular techniques that make loss visible and actionable in certain ways.

This workshop will focus on the various practices involved in “counting loss.” This phrase refers, in part, to the practices involved in quantifying or qualifying loss, from cost-benefit analyses, to actuarial measures, to the formation of disaster compensation funds, to “community” or “public” consultations involved in the design of memorials, museums, to participatory disaster planning. But it also refers to the question: when does loss count in political deliberations, technical decisions, or design processes? When does a measurement of past loss generate a claim in the present? What kinds of authority does it establish? And when and how does the measurement of possible future loss generate the ability to mobilize resources or lay claim to political prerogative? In emphasizing both counting loss and when loss counts, we are particularly interested in the way that the measurement of loss navigates the disjointed temporality around emergencies and disaster. Emergency is often taken to be a time of exception, in which normal rules are suspended. The measure of loss may serve as the hinge between an emergency—whether past or future—and the “normal” operations of government, of economic life, or of social interaction. In exploring how loss becomes measurable and manageable, we seek to focus critical attention on the ways liberal government folds emergency into the times and spaces of everyday life.

On the first day, we’ll be meeting at the New School to listen to a keynote delivered by Kevin Grove on ‘Post-Sandy accounting of past/future loss in NYC.’

This will be followed by a visit to RBD Offices to learn about the Dryline project, design and urban planning in NYC. Amy Chester, Managing Director, will be discussing the project with us. From there we will undertake a guided tour of Dryline intervention sites. Lilah Mejia, Disaster Preparedness Coordination, from LES Ready! will tell us more about vulnerability post-Sandy. In the evening, we will view ‘Sandy Storyline’ and listen to Rachel Faclcone tell us more about the film project.

On the second day, we will visit the 9/11 museum and memorial and listen to local historian Todd Fine speak about the area. Marita Sturken will then deliver a keynote on ‘Post 9/11 accounting of past loss in NYC’ followed by a discussion on the key theme of loss.

More information about the Dryline Project.

More information on the Sandy Storyline.


Emergency related sessions at the RGS

If you’re heading to the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference this week, there are two sessions we recommend for those interested in research on emergency.

Emergency Life (1): The Event of Emergency – Thursday 28 August 2014

Emergency Life (2): Enacting Emergency – Thursday 28 August 2014

The sessions begin with the challenge that life in, through, as and after emergency has been under- theorized and under-researched in geography. They bring together researchers working on life and emergency understood broadly – remaining open about what counts as, or gets counted as, an emergency.

Further detail can be found via the links above.

Book launch. Disasters and Politics: Materials, Experiments, Preparedness

One of our network members, Michel Guggenheim, has co-edited a new book, Disasters and Politics: Materials, Experiments, Preparedness, with Manuel Tironi and Israel Rodríguez-Giralt.

A book launch event will take place on Friday 4th April, 18:00, at the Centre for Collective Collaboration, 16 Acton Street, London WC1X 9NG.

Presenters include Peter Adey, Geography RHUL, Noortje Marres, Sociology Goldsmiths and Mark Pelling, Geography KCL.

Attendance is free, but space is limited. Please register with

Find out more about the book:

A Biopolitics of Emergency

Last week, I gave a lecture at the Welsh DTC (Doctoral Training Centre) theory school entitled ‘A Biopolitics of Emergency’. It was really good to catch up with friends, and meet some new postgrads doing really interesting work.

The lecture was trying to bring together two strands of my current work on emergencies. In relation to how emergencies are governed today, I said a bit about response (in distinction from preemption and other such logics), and in particular how accusations of ‘delay’ in response emerge and are themselves responded to. So I talked a little bit about the 7/7 inquiry as an occasion in which ‘delay’ emerged as a matter of concern, and then talked about response in relation to technologies and techniques of mobilisation. As well as this work on the contemporary, I’m about to start a geneaology of the contemporary government of emergency (of which i see response as critical), so in the background to the lecture was a little on how emergencies became everyday phenomena: emergency as a quality of events that could, potentially, happen anytime, anywhere. At the heart of the lecture was a simple question: how is life related to in emergency? It’s a question I don’t know the answer to yet (and I think the dominance of Agamben in relation to questions of emergencies means that the question isn’t asked). What I think, though, is that this isn’t biopower in terms of disciplinary mechanisms or regulatory mechanisms and the handy shorthands we have for summarising the relations with life that characterise forms of power don’t work for understanding what emerges as emergencies are governed: ‘taking life and letting live’ or ‘making live and letting die’.

The questions were great, even though by that stage it was past 21.00, the postgrads had been doing theory since 9.00 in the morning, and the bar had been open for some pre -lecture drinks … The questions took the discussion off in lots of different directions – the links between militarisation and response, the term accident, the urban focus of the paper, the hopefulness embedded in systems of response, ambulence driving – but what I’ve been coming back to since the lecture is how the expectation/hope that the state will respond and that there should be no delay persists, but only for some peoples and groups. How, in the midst of state restructuring, has the hope/expectation of response continued and how has and is that hope/expectation unequally distributed (as for many it never existed, or was repeatedly disappointed – think of work on differential response times and race or poverty, for example)?

Ben Anderson

Governing Emergencies


Emergencies appear to be a defining feature of life today, whether in relation to terrorism, the credit-crunch, urban unrest, or weather related events. How do states and other organisations such as NGOs plan for and respond to these and other emergencies? And what are the consequences of ways of governing emergencies for life today? Funded by the Leverhulme Trust for a couple of years, the international research network will address these questions by mapping how, and with what consequences, emergencies are governed today. Amongst other questions, we’ll explore the distinctiveness of the government of emergency today by exploring:

  • How is life governed before, during and after emergencies take place?
  • How is human and non-human life valued and thereafter related to in different processes of governing before, during and after emergencies?
  • How has the term emergency been used in conjunction with other related terms (including catastrophe, crisis, and disaster) and what does this imply or assume about life in the global north and south?
  • What implications do different ways of governing emergency hold for political life in the global north and south?

We’ll have more details on our first event soon, in the meantime if you’re interested in similar questions get in touch with Dr Rachel Gordon, the network facilitator (