The utility of social practice theory in risk research
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Social science risk studies often begin with one of two starting points: a particular risk, such as that of natural or technical disasters, or, alternately, with the individual experiencing risk. But risk may not be the guiding concept for how people act in the social world. This article explores how social practice theory broadens the possible starting points for social science risk research and in turn improve our understanding of risk. It does so by drawing on existing empirical studies within risk research that make use of practice-oriented theories and outline three essential arguments for practice-based risk research. First, that risk is understood as embedded in socially shared practices, second, that risk is routinised, and third, that risk is present in both social and material relations. Together, these arguments make out an analytical starting point of ‘practices of interest and intersecting practices’, representing a methodological situationalism, where actions rather than actors are at the core of research. In conclusion, a sensibility for practice in risk research is suggested.