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Riskscapes

August 17, 2011

What a great term!

“…an entire ‘riskscape’ surrounding the family…”  I am quoting Ursula Heise (p751), who attributes the term to Susan Cutter

She makes this comment as part of an analysis of Don DeLillo’s White Noise.  Elsewhere in the analysis, she describes his novel in this way: “DeLillo’s novel, then, is not so much about an ordinary family’s encounter with one exceptionally dangerous technological accident as about the portrayal of life in what German sociologist Ulrich Beck calls the ‘risk society’ of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.” (p752)  According to Heise, DeLillo’s character Gladney “relies on the conviction that exposure to risk follows established lines of social stratification.” (752) However, she points out, “Beck argues precisely the opposite, namely, that new kinds of risk will create new types of social structure characteristic of a different form of modernity.” (pp752-753)  Her analysis of this novel continues: “the portrayal of the risk society in White Noise is based on two dimensions: on one hand, the novel refers not just to one technological disaster but to a range of risks from the trivial to the lethal’ on the other hand, this wide spectrum of risk scenarios hints that there might be many others hidden in plain sight of ordinary life, dangers that simply have not yet been detected. If, as Beck has argued, risk awareness is based not only on experience and second-hand experience but also on ‘second-hand non-experience,’ that is, on the expectation of risks that no one has consciously experienced yet, then the Gladneys’ fear of dying no longer appears unmotivated.” (p755)

Ref: (all emphases mine) Ursula Heise (2002) ‘Toxins, Drugs, and Global Systems: Risk and Narrative in the Contemporary Novel’ American Literature 74(4); 747-778

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