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Call for Papers: Risk, Crisis, Emergency, and Disaster:
Electronic Journal of Communication

Special Issue: Electronic Journal of Communication


Risk, Crisis, Emergency, and Disaster:
On Discourse, Materiality, and Consequentiality of Communication

Issue Editor:
Mariaelena Bartesaghi
University of South Florida

Risk, crisis, emergency, and disaster are phenomena increasingly at the forefront of contemporary life. As communication scholars, we appreciate how these terms underscore and complicate the nexus of the material -- as threats to life, habitat, and social system-- and the interpretive, as terms that constitute, assess, and in turn convey messages about actionable information in moments of uncertainty. Yet these terms are used somewhat synonymously and index processes of decision and sense making that are often referred to transparently as well as from post facto standpoints.

Research addressing risk and crisis is often dependent on analyses of post facto accounts, when the outcome of the episode is already known. Systematic studies of communication during emergency, crisis, and disasters are relatively few, thus obscuring the “in the moment” negotiations of those making sense of emergent situations, under conditions when timeliness may have life or death implications. Terms like “risk” or “disaster” in risk and crisis communication appear as if transparent, with seemingly agreed upon ontologies of what constitutes these constructs. This appearance is misleading, for risk and disaster are already evaluations, that is, they are post facto accounts, justifications of outcomes, or prescriptions for future planning. They are semantically tied endpoints rather than processes or dynamics and thus implicate the question “What went wrong?”

In this special issue, we focus instead on risk, emergency, crisis, and disaster as emergent, contingent, and shifting in the very communication intended to define, address, and manage them. In so doing, we invite authors to consider the way, in the words of Karl Weick, “small events can have disproportionately large effects” as those who are responsible for responding, managing, negotiating, and communicating under conditions of ambiguity orient to and arrive at definitions of the situation as they attempt to act within it.

Possible topics for manuscripts include:

  • studies of spoken and written discourse related to risk assessment, management, and decision making
  • analyses of the dynamics of policy making
  • negotiation of meaning among experts, stakeholders, and/or decision makers in knowledge production about crises, disasters, risks, and/or emergencies
  • discourse analysis of documents, frameworks, and policies related to risk, crisis, emergency, and/or disaster
  • organizational sensemaking studies
  • case studies of crisis/risk/emergency/disaster discourse or interaction in the moment

Send completed manuscripts (8,000 words max, plus references) to the issue editor Mariaelena Bartesaghi at by January 10. Send queries to the same email address.

Manuscripts should be prepared according to the guidelines set forth in the APA Publication Manual, 6th Edition.