Safety and security in and through practice:Tensions at the interface

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    The notions of safety and security have long been treated in distinct literatures. The latter emerged in the context of international relations and in connection with the notion of war, while the former emerged in response to the advent of the concept of risk and developed in parallel with the industrial accidents that occurred in the second half of the 20th century. The 9/11 terrorist attacks made people realize that malicious attacks on high-risk organizations could have the same effects as industrial accidents. Based on this observation, a whole literature started to integrate the concept of security in reflections around safety. At first thought to be mostly synergistic, the recent growth of security issues (through the wave of terrorist attacks that took place in Western Europe between 2015 and 2018, among others,) challenged this dominant synergistic vision of safety and security relations. Indeed, several researchers recently highlighted potential tensions between safety and security and the lack of empirical studies around the relationship between the two. Like recent studies, this thesis investigates and questions the relationships between safety and security in and through practice. To this end, this thesis is built around one case study composed of an ethnographic study in a nuclear research center (NRC) and fieldwork on emergency management (EM) in Belgium. Opting for heuristics from Science and Technology Studies (STS), the Actor-Network Theory (ANT) provided me with the methodological and conceptual tools necessary for the collection and analysis of field data. However, far from limiting ourselves to an orthodox ANT approach, we enriched our analytical framework by using the instrumentation approach and the co-production idiom. The former allowed us to account for the autonomous agency of regulatory instruments and their influence on emergency management regimes in Belgium. The latter served as a sensitizing concept to stimulate our reflections, throughout our study, on the mutual influences between safety and security and on the power relations around their implementation.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Science
    Awarding Institution
    • ULG - Université de Liège
    • Fallon, Catherine, Supervisor, External person
    • Geysmans, Robbe, SCK CEN Mentor
    • Turcanu, Catrinel, SCK CEN Mentor
    Date of Award3 Feb 2022
    StatePublished - 3 Feb 2022

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