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Narratives of risk and collective identity

Potts, Laura (2006) Narratives of risk and collective identity. Auto/Biography, 14 (2). pp. 116-133.

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Breast cancer risk tends to focus on the individual woman, and to ascribe responsibility accordingly. There is, however, a significant if marginalized body of scientific research that considers environmental hazards in relation to the disease. In a recent ESRC Science in Society funded project, we used a Geographical Information Systems for Participation (GIS-P) tool to map women's narratives of local hazards that might be associated with breast cancer risk. The maps and stories — of workplaces and playgrounds, homes and schools, factories and mines, of dust and the river — that evolved from this research process, reveal the participants' understanding of a shared community of risk. Thus risk becomes part of a collective identity, in relation to a shared and common danger, which shifts the locus of responsibility from the woman to the locale, and eventually to the agencies with authority of governance of those risks. This process contributes to the legitimization of `lay' narratives of aetiology, both as an ideological, political exercise, and as a pragmatic programme to open up deliberative democratic processes, and accord value and authority to citizens and non-professionals.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1191/0967550706ab039oa
School/Department: School of Science, Technology and Health
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/40

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