New paper: ‘Locating the intangible’

A paper on which I am credited with Liam Magee, John Handmer, and Monique Ladds has just been published in Geoforum on early view. The paper – titled ‘Locating the Intangible: Integrating a Sense of Place into Cost Estimations of Natural Disasters’ – discusses how ‘intangible assets’ remain a major weakness in economic cost estimates of natural disasters. Personally, like my colleagues on this paper, I think there are a lot of problems with the economising drive of hazards discourse. Seeking to bring things into a financial accounting framework can perpetuate quite pernicious ideas that, for example, financial equity is equity (capitalist utopia!), or that all the world is ultimately countable (technicist utopia!), amongst many other things. Alternately, cost estimations are a major driver of hazard policy (and expenditure) and, within such practices, if something is not counted or countable then it does not ‘count’. So, this paper surveys some responses to this issue and lays out a possible method for thinking about the quantification of ‘sense of place’.

A link to the (free) PDF is here. Abstract:

The field of disaster loss assessment attempts to provide comprehensive estimates of the cost of disasters. Assessment of intangibles remains a major weakness. Existing costing frameworks have acknowledged losses to cultural – as distinct from economic, social, human or environmental – capital. However, the inclusion of cultural line items has usually been conducted in an ad hoc and under-theorised way, with little empirical evidence. This paper presents the possibility of using cultural capital itself as an overarching category for specifically cultural losses. It further focuses on the specific concept of sense of place as one area that has been neglected even in frameworks that consider other kinds of intangibles, and argues, on both theoretical and pragmatic grounds, that a collective or shared sense of place can be subsumed within cultural capital loss estimates. Christchurch provides an illustration of the idea as relevant and comparable empirical material is available from before and since the 2011 earthquake.

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