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The everyday and events: Understanding risk perceptions and resilience in urban Nepal

RUSZCZYK, HANNA,ALINA (2017) The everyday and events: Understanding risk perceptions and resilience in urban Nepal. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis argues for a broader and deeper understanding of urban risk perception and resilience in under researched, ordinary medium sized cities of the world such as Bharatpur, Nepal. A detailed intra urban comparison of a core urban ward and a rapidly urbanising ward provide a conceptual and methodological tool showcasing a complex risk landscape as perceived by residents. In the everyday, respondents perceive a range of risks including economic security and physical infrastructure. Through participation in informal governance structures (women’s groups and neighbourhood groups), some residents are addressing urban risk in the everyday. Women’s groups are a form of informal urban social, economic and environmental resilient infrastructure while neighbourhood groups are allowed to do more, thus reworking the urban to address their perceived risks. Bharatpur, Nepal provides an opportunity to learn from its inhabitants: what the urban “we” perceive as risks, how the urban “we” enact resilience and or rework the urban as well as how they attempt to create and influence a future that is of benefit to them and their communities.

Two events lead to a changing risk environment for residents and the local authority. The change in administrative status (from a municipality to a sub metropolitan city) and the devastating Gorkha earthquake highlight the complexity of risk perceptions and practices shaping people’s response to risky events. Through these events, risk for poorer, marginalised residents is being accumulated and responses to perceived risk may need to be reworked by informal organisations that currently have power in the city. Through the lens of these two events as well as the everyday, the role of the local authority is viewed as a particularly important form of risk governance in the city. The local authority manages the informality of risk governance space allowing some groups of residents to address their perceived risks while excluding segments of society.

The international aid community’s ambivalence towards the problematic resilience discourse framing their work is also made visible in this research. The international aid community of Nepal is utilising disaster community resilience in two distinct ways: as a bridging mechanism for their siloed work and as a project management tool of the donors to manage practitioners. The resilience lens ignores urban residents’ perceptions of risk and power dynamics in society. This results in an assumption that “communities” can become resilient. The overarching contribution of this research is the linking of disaster and urban studies of ordinary medium sized cities through the concepts of risk perceptions, resilience, community and a multi scale analysis leading to insights of relevance for theory, policy and practice. This research argues to de-privilege disasters and a conceptual space is created for engaging through time and space with a broader interpretation of urban risk and urban resilience as perceived by actors from the local to the national and to the international scale.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:risk, resilience, Nepal, urban, medium sized cities, events, everyday, earthquakes, Global South, risk perceptions, gender, community, disasters, urban risk governance, policy and practice
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Geography, Department of
Thesis Date:2017
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 Dec 2017 10:22

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