Risk, Policy and Law

How does something come to be defined as a ‘risk’ to well-being? How does someone come to be defined as ‘at risk’ of mental or physical harm? What strategies are employed to manage risks associated with health and well-being, how do these strategies come to be employed, and what are their effects?

The Poor Man's Friend (death) Punch cartoon.

L0003354 The poor man’s friend (Death). Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images.

Do the languages of ‘risk’ and attempts to govern ‘risks’ reflect specific aspects of ‘modernity’? What roles have modern states and modern forms of knowledge played in constructing risks related to health? What implications do policies aimed at governing risk have for relations between modern states and society?

Issues associated with risk need to be situated within specific historical, social and political contexts and in relation to the major economic considerations, political strategies and legal developments that have shaped these contexts. With this perspective, the ‘Risk, Policy and the Law’ research strand has two major aims:

  1. To make a methodological contribution to the study of risk, policy and the law by attempting to bridge the gap between social-scientific approaches to risk and those employed in the arts and humanities; the point of departure here is an exploration of the presumed biopolitical nature of governing risk that has preoccupied scholarly discourse and broader public debate.
  2. To make an empirical contribution by bringing together medical research and historical, sociological and legal findings on definitions of ‘risk’ and attempts to govern it.