Risk in Culture: The American Conflict over Nuclear Power

Essay Excerpt

It has become commonplace to assert that technological risk is a social phenomenon.  Social science studies typically establish the point by showing that risk avoidance involves more than scientific criteria.  No group responds to all risks in a way that is directly proportional to the magnitudes of the physical hazards involved, and different social groups avoid different kinds of hazards differently.  The public controversy over nuclear power has provided the paradigm case, for the decade-long entrenchment of pro-nuclear and anti-nuclear alignments in the fact of changing evidence about the hazards of nuclear power stimulated much of the research on risk in the first place. (388)

Downey, Gary L.. "Risk in Culture: The American Conflict over Nuclear Power." Cultural Anthropology 1, no. 4 (1986): 388-412

About the Author

Gary Downey is an ethnographic listener interested in engineering studies, especially practices of knowledge in service. Trained as a mechanical engineer (B.S. Lehigh 1974) and cultural anthropologist (B.A. Lehigh 1974, M.A. 1977 Chicago, Ph.D. Chicago 1981), he is Alumni Distinguished Professor of Science and Technology Studies and affiliated faculty member in Engineering Education, Women's and Gender Studies, and Sociology.Downey is author of The Machine in Me: An Anthropologist Sits Among Computer Engineers (Routledge 1998), co-editor of What Is Global Engineering Education For?: The Making of International Educators (Morgan & Claypool 2010), co-editor of Cyborgs and Citadels: Anthropological Interventions in Emerging Sciences and Technologies (School of American Research Press 1998), and author of the multimedia textbook Engineering Cultures (Virginia Tech 2002).

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