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Numéro 95
Juin 2004

Apprivoiser les catastrophes

Jacques Lolive
Configurations, opportunities and proposals

Risk comes about through the instability
of the things or systems that shape
human life. The perception of danger
does not concern the actual properties
of the object of a threat so much as the
opportunities it offers to the imagination
and reason. These opportunities
translate into practical proposals in
which political mobilization intersects
with scientific research and confidencebuilding

Patrick PerettiWatel
Local government facing the test of the risk society
Thierry Coanus, François Duchêne, Emmanuel Martinais
Risk, territories and the long term

The risk of accident or disaster is a system
of collective representations that
is considered in its longterm formation
together with its actors and its territories.
Scientific circles and experts
have largely contributed to the invention
of the « risk society ». The heterogeneous
nature of the situations involved
shows the weaknesses of this aggregative

Violaine Girard
PierreBénite and the technological risk

The commune of PierreBénite in the
urban area of Lyon is at the centre of
the « chemical corridor » where the past
century, factories have been established
dangerously close to dwellings. The
workingclass municipality, which has
had a longstanding attachment to its
industries, now has to face up to the
diversification of its population. In addition
to the technological risk, there are
also alarming economic prospects.

Gaëlle Clavandier
When disaster leaves its scars

In 1970, fortyseven people died in the
fire at the « 5/7 » dance hall of SaintLaurent
duPont in Isère. The town still
bears the scars today, particularly
because of the liability proceedings opposing
parents of victims, the dance hall
managers and the mayor of the town. A
commemorative monument perpetuates
the conflict and shows the turnstiles
that were the cause of the disaster.

Jacques Roux
The City and its precautionary
Alexis Sierra
The instrumentalization of risk in Quito

The City of Quito, built at the foot of
mountainous slopes, lives under the
threat of muddy high waters with disastrous
flooding. Judging by the patchwork
nature of the project developments
among the different areas, the
protection options seem to be guided
by objectives of clearing slums and
upgrading prestige buildings. Political
choices reflecting the city’s social history
are made relevant to presentday
issues through the discourse on protection
against natural hazards.

Henri Acselrad, Cecillia C. Do A. Mello
Oil leakage in the Bay of Rio de Janeiro

Oil leaks, offshore drilling rig explosions
and accidents have been multiplying
in recent years on the sites of
Petrobras, national oil company in Brazil.
From occupational accidents to environmental
disasters, union activities to
fishermen’s demonstrations, the public
discussions and local conflicts generated
by these events are denouncing the
shortcomings of the safety measures.
They are also confirming the company’s
hegemony over the country.

Tomohide Atsumi
Eight years after Kobe, Volunteers, risks and dangers

The 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan,
the greatest national disaster since the
war, unleashed an unprecedented wave
of solidarity in the archipelago. The
experience of the volunteer rescue workers
changed the way the disaster was
viewed. The volunteer searchers were
thus able to draw attention to subjective
or hidden dangers that tend to be
overlooked when making a rational calculation
of risks.

François Duchêne, Christelle MorelJournel
Experience of a flood

Experts view a natural risk as the interface
between a hazard and a vulnerability
- a specious distinction when listening
to the victims of one or more
floods. Long after the event, the disaster
lives on to haunt local memory. The
permanent state of vigilance in which
the local inhabitants live generates a
body of opinion that challenges hazard
prevention measures.

Laurent Bocéno
Nuclear risk in La Hague
Philippe Genestier, Laurette Wittner
Is risk replacing progress ?

For the past two centuries, modernity,
which is forever striving towards a
brighter future, has made reason the
basis for individuals’autonomy and
society’s control of nature. Risk awa
reness is now taking hold at a time
when growth threatens the ecosystem,
uncertainty pervades forecasting and
the meaning of history is becoming
blurred. The reasons for this change
remain to be defined. Is it the ultimate
effect of social ageing ? The globalisation
of economies ?

Jérôme Ferret
Police forces and urban risk government

The concept of risk, a new paradigm
of public action, has provided a term
common to the many services in
charge of urban disorder. For the
police, it results in a body of procedures
and methods of observation,
assessment and action, which requires
many technical and organizational
skills. These skills particularly raise
the level of protection of private interests
in local urban life.

François Madoré
Gated communities in France

The securely walledin housing complex
has become a highly valued building
model in France and throughout
the world. The reason for this success
is a general buildup of social misgivings.
The sanctuary home and the
controlled neighbourhood are essential
anchor points for residents preoccupied
with stability.

Gérald Billard
Risk prevention in the public space of American cities
Franck Sanselme
Local residents up against street prostitution

Situations such as street prostitution
with active soliciting are considered by
some inhabitants as infringements of
rights and privacy. A survey on inhabitants
in Rennes shows that they find
forms of intrusion of « elsewhere » into
the residential area more disturbing
than prostitution itself, with which they
are familiar. The reduction of these tensions
through public regulations is proving

Thierry Pillon
Why worry ?
Hartmut Haüssermann
The safe city ?

Urban life is a fragile, unstable social
form in which any imposed order will
threaten those qualities that are responsive
to chance and the unexpected.
The recent development of systems to
protect public spaces meets demand
but also gives rise to misgivings. The
challenge and the role of the city of the
future may consist in providing a
concrete response to the local desire
for safety while opposing communitaristic
demands and segregative trends.

Isabelle Stengers
Risking a learning city ?