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Technocratic Responses to the Politicization of Risk: Underwater Munitions in New York City’s Gravesend Bay and Narrows

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Risk and its management are social phenomena, constructed through dynamic political, cultural, and economic systems. Those wishing to publicize and manage the risk posed by legacy underwater munitions would benefit from an awareness of the political context in which they work. The interaction of various local, national, and global political interests will enable certain kinds of risk management action while also constraining others. This article examines such issues through a case study of politics of underwater munitions in New York City’s Gravesend Bay and Narrows. The impetus to deal with these munitions has largely come from their politicization by local civilians: politicians, environmental activists, lawyers, and journalists. By contrast, risk management actions by national-level military institutions have consistently functioned to depoliticize the issue by framing it technocratically. This illustrates a common political tension in risk management. Public mobilization raises awareness of risk but may sensationalize it. Technocrats have the budgetary and technical wherewithal to deal with it professionally but resist politicization of risk and try to channel and defuse mobilization through existing institutions and programs.
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Keywords: New York City; social construction of risk; underwater munitions

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2012

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  • The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.
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