Risk seems to be omnipresent in contemporary everyday life. From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep (and even when we are asleep!) we may be engaged in some form of risk-taking or risk-management. What to wear, what to eat, who to befriend, what to watch online, how much to wager on that game, how fast to drive, how long to put off that assignment, how to feel, how much to drink at the pub—in all of these decisions we may make more or less conscious calculations about the kinds of risk we will take, and their consequences for us down the line. Sometimes we may be oblivious to the apparent risks we face in our daily lives. We may not think twice before jumping on our bikes without wearing a helmet, or basking in the sun without a hat. Equally, we may develop an inflated sense of the risks that surround us—we may be anxious about flying for example, when statistical data tell us that it is much less risky than driving.

Risks also abound beyond our individual orbits. Organizations expend considerable energy to try to know and off-set risks. National governments, for example, attempt to risk-manage the economy by tweaking macro-economic levers. Cities zone areas according to whether they might be at risk of flooding, or fire, or other calamities. Some companies downplay risks associated with their products (think of tobacco companies, for instance). Others have a vested interest in amplifying the collective worry over this or that risk (think of media companies vying for audience attention, and insurance companies seeking to insure us against increasing numbers of uncertainties).

Starting with the formation of The CISSC Risk Research Working Group in 2015, scholars from across the disciplines of anthropology, applied human sciences, geography, and sociology, as well as the fine arts, have turned their attention to studying and theorizing risk, and transformed it into a dynamic area of cross-disciplinary inquiry at Concordia

Key Questions

  • How do perceptions of risk (material, symbolic, and emotional) shape cultural production practices, relations, and outcomes?
  • How do nonhuman beings figure in calculations of risk, both as “risky subjects” and subjects of risk?
  • How best to deconstruct the risks of discriminating environments (be they racist, sexist, ableist, or discriminatory in other ways)? How best to understand the objective risks such environments pose for people, and the equally important (but different) qualitative experience of this risk?
  • How do organizations manage risk in the context of their everyday operations, and what consequences (intended and unintended) flow from these risk-management efforts?
  • How is risk commodified and rendered calculable in economic terms (for instance, in the insurance industry) and what effects does such calculability have on both the social structure of risk and our individual experiences of it?
  • How is risk assessed and quantified in health research, health care, and public health systems, and what effects do those systems have on the governmentality of lifestyles, on our understandings of health and illness, and on our individual experience of wellbeing?
  • What does risk mean when one smokes, uses drugs, makes a large bet, has sex without protection, etc.? To what extent is risk an intellectual abstraction, a challenge to transgress the imperatives of health and wellbeing, or something else?


Working group member names are in bold

Guta, A. M. Gagnon, J. Mannell, and M. French. (2016). “Gendering the HIV ‘Treatment as Prevention’ Paradigm: Surveillance, Viral Loads, and Risky Bodies,” in Emily van der Meulen and Robert Heynen (eds). Expanding the Gaze: Gender and the Politics of Surveillance. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, pp. 156-184.

Gaspar, M., Grennan, T., Salit, I., and Grace, D. (2018). “Confronting comorbidity risks within HIV biographies: gay men’s integration of HPV-associated anal cancer risk into their narratives of living with HIV,” Health, Risk & Society

Pavlyuk, O.,* Noble, B.F., Blakley, J.A.E., Jaeger, J.A.G. (2017): Fragmentary provisions for uncertainty disclosure and consideration in EA legislation, regulations and guidelines and the need for improvement. Environmental Impact Assessment Review 66: 14-23.

Lees, J.,* Jaeger, J.A.G., Gunn, J.A.E., Noble, B.F. (2016): Analysis of uncertainty consideration in environmental assessment: An empirical study of Canadian EA practice. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management 59(11): 2024-2044.

Leung, W.,* Noble, B.F., Jaeger, J.A.G., Gunn, J.A.E. (2016): Disparate perceptions about uncertainty consideration and disclosure practices in environmental assessment and opportunities for improvement. Environmental Impact Assessment Review 57: 89-100.

Leung, W.*, Noble, B., Gunn, J., Jaeger, J.A.G. (2015): A review of uncertainty research in impact assessment. – Environmental Impact Assessment Review 50: 116-123.

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