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The Normalcy of Emergency Government

I presented “The Normalcy of Emergency Government” at the first meeting of the Governing Emergencies Network. The workshop–whose program is below–was an exciting beginning to a multi-year initiative.

Introduction to the Workshop and Network: Governing Emergencies

Ben Anderson

Session 1: Emergency and Crisis and Catastrophe and …

Emergency accompanies and, at times, is indistinct from a cluster of partially connected terms. The workshop will reflect on the specifics of the term emergency, including but going beyond its etymological roots and routes. How does the term emergency connect to and differ from other ways of dealing with things falling apart, including crisis and catastrophe, but also accident, incident or disruption? What assumptions does ‘emergency’ carry about order and disorder, about continuity and discontinuity, about events and non-events? How does it connect to ways of thinking about the time of proper action or the obligations and responsibilities of actors to act or not act in relation to events? How is the term emergency operationalised and deployed by different actors for different purposes? And how are lines drawn between emergency and what might, or might not, be considered the opposite of emergency: normality, everyday, banal and so on?

Janet Roitman: Anti-Crisis:

Stephen Collier: On Emergency

Mathew Kearnes: On Emergency

Session 2: Events and Non-Events.

The session will explore the relation between ways of governing emergency and what are designated as, or felt as, or become events. How are events of different types and forms ‘grasped and handled’ (Foucault 2007) if governed as emergencies? What is the specific ‘mode of eventfulness’ that characterizes emergency and how do particular ways of understanding events become part of ways of governing emergencies? How do emergencies relate to non or quasi events? Do ways of governing emergencies produce or attempt to create non-events by, for example, pre-empting events or mitigating the loss or damage or harm of an event? How do ways of governing emergency know and make sense of and act in relation to events or non-events? Do some ways of governing collapse the distinction between emergency and normality?

Claudia Aradau: The Judge, The Historian and the Emergency Planner: Styles of Reasoning about Events

Rachel Gordon, Nat O’Grady & Ben Anderson: Everyday Emergencies

Simon Marvin & Andres Luque: Control Rooms and ‘Permanent Emergency’

Kezia Barker: ‘Smile It May Never Happen’: Negotiating Everyday Futures in the Governance of the ‘Non-Event’

Session 3: Contemporary Logics

Much work has now focused on the emergence and deployment of preparedness, preemption and other ways of securing life by acting in advance of events. The session will introduce some novel ways of governing emergencies emerging across different domains of life. The papers will provide a way in to exploring questions including: How are emergencies governed today? How have specific logics and techniques emerged, changed and been deployed? What are the consequences – political and ethical – of specific logics and techniques? How do logics and techniques become part of events or situations as they emerge?

Stefan Elbe: Governing Emergencies Pharmaceutically: The Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasure Enterprise (PHEMCE)

Emily Gilbert: Governing Emergency Response Through Victim Compensation.

Paul Langley: Volcker, Vickers and Velocity: The Structural Regulation of ‘Too-Big-To-Fail’ Banking

Sven Opitz: Soft Emergency Law: Protocols of Legal Preparedness in the Administration of Global Pandemics

Session 4: Techniques/Technologies

How do specific techniques become part of emergency governance and with what consequences? What is the relation between ordinary techniques/technologies and emergency/disaster? How do techniques matter?

Marieke de Goede: The List as a Technology of Emergency Governance

Joe Deville: A Risky Business: Disaster Preparedness and the Problem of Irrelevance

 Session 5: Emergency Topologies

Critical discussion of the topologies of emergency have, until recently, been dominated by the ‘state of exception’ and the inclusive-exclusive relation of the ban, in the context of a broader concern with the politics and practice of exceptionalism. The workshop will explore other topologies of emergency. How do emergencies and disasters happen as particular social forms in complex relation with ‘normality’? How do presents, pasts and futures enfold and relate as emergencies are governed? What kind of spatialities are produced and enacted as emergencies are prepared for, preempted, responded to or recovered from?

Michael Guggenheim: Emergency and Crisis and … Functional Differentiation.

Peter Adey: Mediations in an Emergency: The Ambiguity of Evacuation.

Ute Tellman: Financial Infrastructure and the Topology of Emergency

Aurora Fredriksen: Results-Based Humanitarianism: Value for Money, Emergency and the Topological Orderings of Humanitarian Space

Session: 6 After Emergency

What happens when what might be considered the time of emergency – the emergent situation that arises suddenly and unexpectedly – is reworked; for example when as event has already materialized in the form of overwhelming harm and damage and loss. The session will explore how ways of governing in, by and through emergency blur with other ways of governing – in particular focusing on resilience. How, to return to the first session, are ways of governing emergency reconfigured when what an event is, and what a non-event is, are reworked. And what are the politics and aesthetics of governing through resilience before, in and after times of crisis or disaster?

Stephanie Simon & Samuel Randalls: Resilience and Ontological Post-Politics in a ‘Time of Crisis’

Kevin Grove: Governing the Virtual: The Politics and Aesthetics of Disaster Resilience and Reconstruction in Post-Superstorm Sandy New York City

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