Contribuciones a las Ciencias Sociales
Julio 2014


Maximiliano E. Korstanje (CV)
International Committee Research on Disasters, Bryant, Texas USA

Risks are adjusted to conceptual categories similarly to taboos. Founding parents of anthropology considered that social order was based under the principle of safety. All cultural habits and practices are determined by borders. Accepted and rejected threats install customs in human minds not only modifying their style of life but also their expectances.  Starting from the premise that risks should be considered as cultural legacies coming from a shared history, Mary Douglas & Aaron Wildawsky (1983) emphasize on the culture as the need of protection before environmental hostility. This assumption suggests that societies can be examined by their fears. Valid research should for example explore the demand and consumption of insurance premiums in argentine society which reflect the degree of adaptancy of risk. This represents a new methodology, instrument to understand how risk and practice is inextricably intertwined.

Time allows the coherent classification of experiences, to serve as moral guidelines in times of uncertainty. Whenever events are not framed, or cannot be framed, risk surfaces. First of all, risk connotes a social narrative enrooted in a situation of danger. But risk is not real, this represents a future condition. Whenever the danger takes places in forms of disasters, or emergencies risk disappears (Douglas & Wildavski, 1983; Douglas, 1992). This is exactly the way insurance policies works in modern world. Lay people are encouraged by experts to buy insurance based only in a precautionary doctrine. Any Insurance cannot be bought once the risk has been transformed in a real danger.  U. Beck acknowledges that the modern society is linked to an on-going risk because the grounding social institutions that regulated the social life are in decline. While religion, education and economy not only has changed but also are in process of disappearance, other new types of mediators emerged. Risk connotes an interesting mediator (like money) to connect people otherwise would not be familiar. Without risk, society would disintegrate in question of years (Beck, 2006). The concept of future seems to be inextricably intertwined to risk (Giddens, 1991).

In tourism industry, undoubtedly, 9/11 marked a starting point. The psychological impact of this event transcended the boundaries of nationhood by the degree of visual technology developed by the media in West. Terrorists not only employed against West their own means of transport, which created a new tactic of terrorism, but also found in the media a compliance to distribute a fear-mongering message. Clearly, tourism has been one of the industries most affected by terrorist acts. Terrorism determines the way travelers garner information and draw images of their destinations (Peattie, Clarke and Peattie, 2005). Because of their unfamiliarity with the visited destination, travelers and tourists are often target of diverse crimes. Some  terrorist cells attack tourists with a double-message. On one hand, they inflict a sentiment of panic in the public opinion of the victims’ countries of origin. On another, they undermine the citizenry’s trust in the state. Of course, any destination combines risk aversion with risk attraction factors. As Lepp and Gibson (2008) put it, this industry seems to be circumscribed by two contrasting tendencies, the sensation or novelty seeking risk and risk aversion. The type of psychological personality of tourists plays a crucial role at time of determining the perception of risk. In addition, B. West (2008) considers the terrorist attacks in 2003 to Western tourists in Bali. They have been memorialized by the Australian Press as the archetype of terrorism, comparing this event with 9/ 11. This means that collective memory and crises are inextricably intertwined in the national discourse. Postmodern nationalisms legitimize travel as a universal benefit to human kind which should be defended at any cost. Similarly, the narrative of terrorism emphasizes that enemies of democracy utilize foreign tourists precisely because of their vulnerability, as acts of cowardice.

The conceptual limitations to define the tourist risk in terms of those aspects which may jeopardize the well being of tourists, seems to be unquestionable. Its vulnerability and its lack of familiarity make from tourists a prey for crime and terrorist attacks. Besides, the prosperity of economies which adopt tourism as a chief industry depends on the image of destinations. Terrorism, like many other risks, in this vein represents serious problems for policy-makers, practitioners and designers who devote considerable efforts and money in planning sustainable economies. Risk related studies can be classified in four types, of course with diverse objects.

a) Studies where risks is associated to residency.  
b) Risks linked to familiar bonds.
c) Research that takes nationality as primary object
d) Psychological personality.

Problems of positivism to appreciate other more qualitative methods are not new. The fact is that there is no scientific evidence that risk would other thing than a social construe. As such, it can be very well studied from a qualitative view. Trust seems to be of paramount importance to the functioning of capital system. Money would play the role of a trusty mediator connecting people with institutions. Insurance and professional expertise is some of the acceptable devices to restore balance and these are sought without a second thought. The postmodern societies do a lot of trivialization of risk. Many youths cannot distinguish risks they encounter in computer games from physical or emotional risks in life. The impact of marketing is evident in the readymade solutions such as making use of the services of therapists, seeking insurance coverage, etc. Their mechanisms of risk forecast ‘intellectualize’ the real dangers by means of professionalism which is mostly translation into a language inaccessible for those outside the walls of particular professions. In this process, the common man loses traditionally gained innate insights about dealing with risky situations.

Travels may be defined by the convergence between curiosity and security. On the one hand, the displacement is triggered by motivations based on escapement, but these rites should be circumscribed to certain climate of stability (George, Inbakaran & Poyyamoli, 2010). People may develop either aversion or attractiveness respecting to risk (Dolnicar, 2005). Travels and physical displacements, for being practices that allude to go through uncertainness, may increase the subject vulnerability. Travels at some extent generate some risks. Although tourism and hospitality have devoted considerable efforts in mitigating the negative threats in order for involved destination not to be affected, the mass media portraits on crises, disasters and other processes of instability which may impinge on the local economy.  Recent investigation demonstrated that the role of tourists is a key factor to expand the existent understanding about the attachment of self to risks. Whilst some tourists adapt their behaviour to danger, others select for safer destinations. The biography of self is of paramount importance to determine the perception of risk. After years of research in risk related research, new alternative are needed. Criticism to risk perception theory verses on the following significant points:

  1. Some gender stereotypes simplify the findings. Females often do not perceive further risk by her condition, but by their role as care-taker.
  2. The phenomenon is studied by applying questionnaires and intrusive methods that do not reveal the dichotomy between people say and do.
  3. Nationality plays a pivotal role in configuring risk creating subtle discrimination over some countries. This does not mean that risk-related research promotes ethnocentrism, but their findings may very well be tergiversated in favour of some national movements. Strictly based on quantitative correlations, qualitative research has been relegated to risk fields.

The hegemony of quantitative related research ignores other rich approaches as movie analysis or projective techniques. As grounding emotions, fear sometimes is very difficult to grasp with traditional techniques. Besides, mathematical algorithms not only reveal the cause of events. Rather, the fear and perceived risk can be studied following the penchant of consumers to contract insurances and coverage. The postmodern societies are based under the risk. Their mechanisms of forecasts are prepared to intellectualize the dangers by means of professionalism. Whenever lay people experience a threat, no matter than its nature, a set of diverse instruments are deployed in order for the liaison not to be broken. Trust seems to be of paramount importance to the functioning of capital system. Money would plays a mediator role connecting people with institutions. Coverage, insurances, experts and sciences are some of the devices to restore a bearable threshold of uncertainty in local economies. By studying the insurance and their policies, one might understand how risk works in our late capitalist society.

Beck, U.         (1998). La Invención de lo Social. México, FCE.
______            (2006). La Sociedad del riesgo, hacia una nueva modernidad. Buenos Aires, Paidos
Dolnicar, S. (2005) “Understanding barriers to leisure travel, tourists fears as marketing basis. Journal of Vacation Marketing, 11 (3): 197-208.

Douglas, M. & Wildavsky A. (1983) Risk and Culture: an essay on the selection of technological and environmental Dangers. Los Angeles, University of Californa Press, 1983.

George, B, Inbakaran, R. & Poyyamoli, G. (2010) “To Travel or Not to travel: towards understanding the theory of nativistic motivation”. Tourism, an international interdisciplinary Journal. Vol. 58 (4): 395-407.

Giddens, A. (1997). The Transformation of Intimacy. Oxford, Polity Press.

Lepp, A. and Gibson, H. 2008, Sensation Seeking and Tourism: tourist role, perception of risk and Destination Choice. Tourism Management. Vol. 29, pp. 740-750.

Peattie, S. Clarke, P. and Peattie, K. (2005) Risk and Responsibility in Tourism: promoting sun-safety”. Tourism Management. Vol. 26, pp. 399-408.

West, B. (2008) Collective Memory and Crisis: The 2002 Bali Bombing, National Heroic archetypes and the counter-narrative of Cosmopolitan nationalism,. Journal of Sociology. Vol. 44 (4), pp. 337-353.