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Habilitation à diriger des recherches

Horizons critiques et réflexifs pour une géographie des risques et de l'environnement : Des liens qui libèrent?

Abstract : This HDR dissertation brings forward my own research activity dedicated to the study of risks and geography of risk and the environment from a social and political viewpoint. The statements exposed stem from Latin-American fieldworks mainly, as well as from an intellectual trajectory connecting three points: the Americas (both north and south) and Europe. But the statements also deal with broader debates and dialogues. They are part of a globalized science for which the integration of multiple kinds of knowledge is a key issue. The starting point of the dissertation consists in stressing the apparently paradoxical link between multiple efforts for producing scientific knowledge and managing risk on the one hand, and supposedly disappointing results regarding damage records on the other hand. Yet, efforts in knowing and managing better are not pointless at all, however disappointing they might appear at first sight. What would a world with no disaster prevention policies look like? What lessons can we learn from the huge amount of knowledge produced on risks from the mid 20th century on? How to move forward? This dissertation defends the interest of a permanent recursivity in researching. It defends a kind of research informed by what it implies as well as by the many conditions it relies on, in so far as the contexts greatly influence the aims, the characteristics, and the scope of the production of knowledge. This dissertation takes stock of and identifies limits and obstacles that knowledge production has to face, before drawing new horizons for a better integration of research. Part 1 advocates for a more contextual approach. Chapter 1 gives room to a territorial approach of risks (or TAR), based on the notion of territory. TAR embeds risk genesis, but also its study and management, in the dynamics of human settlements, and more specifically, in (both material and immaterial) spatial dimensions of societies. TAR consists in a more classical exercise of geography, about the knowledge of territory. In chapter 2, it facilitates a broader understanding of the environment in geography, in both social and political terms. Chapter 3 takes stock of methodological and epistemological inquiries at stake in chapters 1 and 2. Like in the whole dissertation, reflexivity is a marker of the 3 first chapters. It brings at the forefront the diversity of obstacles to a broader integration of scientific knowledge by itself, and between scientific knowledge and management. Part 2 consists in highlighting limits of knowledge (chapter 4) but also of action (chapter 5). Those limits might apparently contribute to nurture the supposedly paradoxical link between large efforts of knowledge and poor results (mainly regarding disaster prevention and damage). By reviewing the limits of knowledge on risks (either in heuristic, epistemic, methodological or sociological terms), as well as the limits of action (related with material conditions of the management, regulatory but also institutional aspects, lobbies and interested parties, at different and intricated scales), it appears that many of the limits at stake cannot be eluded. On the contrary, they are constitutive parts of risk situations. Some limits of knowledge fall under heuristic dimensions. They depend on knowledge patterns. Other limits are more related with the social conditions of production of knowledge and research activity. This HDR dissertation rather develops horizons to explore to the latter kind of limits. In part 3, chapter 6 offers to reconsider the limits not as dead-ends for the reflection, but rather as critical conditions of knowledge and action. More than putting forward differences (and separating what can be known and done or not), limits envisioned as critical conditions emerge like shared frontiers for knowledge and action. Sorts of fuzzy horizons that can never be reached and are in permanent rearrangement. Those horizons open the door for a critical and reflexive dialogue towards in-depth interdisciplinarity for knowledge. Chapter 7, last and daring statements, explores the opportunity of taking seriously an ethical horizon for research on risks and the environment, either in terms of research activity or regarding its contents. Ethics in research supports today grassroots innovations as well as institutional framings and regulation, which potentially allows for better consideration of the weight of contexts in research. Here is a common feature with the TAR. Drawing on the exploration of a promising ethical horizon for research, this HDR dissertation concludes by highlighting the importance of a research that is fundamentally reflexive. In the production of knowledge and its social scope, the critical role of contextual effects – that have been barely acknowledged until now, if not as secondary aspects – must be acknowledged and reinforced. Research on risks and the environment emerges strengthened from the integration of such connections, links and circulations as the world it belongs to seems to demonstrate a true interest and concern for risk and environment topics.
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Habilitation à diriger des recherches
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Submitted on : Sunday, August 21, 2022 - 3:33:53 PM
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Julien Rebotier. Horizons critiques et réflexifs pour une géographie des risques et de l'environnement : Des liens qui libèrent?. Géographie. Sorbonne Université, 2022. ⟨tel-03755103⟩

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