Home > Research > Publications & Outputs > Waiting on standby

Electronic data


View graph of relations

Waiting on standby: The relevance of disaster preparedness

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>28/02/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Ephemera : Theory and Politics in Organization
Issue number1
Number of pages41
Pages (from-to)95-135
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date1/12/20
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This paper examines a disaster preparedness organisation for which waiting is, and has long been, an intensive yet frustrating state. Its focus is on the organisation most centrally concerned with disaster response in Switzerland: Zivilschutz, or ‘Civil Protection’. Drawing on ethnographic and historical research, it explores how a particular modality of waiting – waiting on standby – is rendered fragile by the absence of disasters severe enough to authorise its activities. For many, participating in this organisational enterprise appears to incur the risk of becoming trapped in an endless present, in which training and exercises become the primary focus of organisational activity over and above responding directly to disasters. The paper suggests that a core challenge that has occupied the recent and more distant pasts of Swiss disaster preparedness is how to continue to claim its ‘relevance’, in the context of pasts and anticipated futures that threaten to undermine this very claim. The paper draws on work that has looked to the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead to account for how, precisely, the world and conditions of possibility are continually made and remade. This includes in relation to practices of ‘relevance-making’, as well as the capturing of ‘feeling’. By doing so, the paper examines how particular times and spaces, both past and future, become joined, sometimes unavoidably, to the practices, affects and devices of disaster preparedness. It adds to work on the temporal dimensions of organisational life, in particular that which has focused on the role of affect and the everyday.