Ontological Security and the Global Risk Environment: A Case Study of Risk and Risk Perception in the Tourist-Dependent Township of Akaroa
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis is about global catastrophic risks and the conscious effect of such risks at the level of everyday life. Utilising R. D. Laing's concept of "ontological security", this thesis questions the extent to which risks that loom in the global environment cause a sense of ontological insecurity amongst individuals at the local-level. In addressing this question, this thesis responds to the theories of Ulrich Beck and Anthony Giddens who maintain that the contemporary age is marked both by the emergence of global risks that exist as the unintended consequences of modernisation and a greater sense of risk owing to how information about such risks is disseminated by the media. While no objection is made to the argument that the global environment has become more objectively threatening, this thesis questions whether individuals in fact perceive such threat in their daily lives. This argument rests on the view that global risks, in the main, lack a tangible dimension needed to elicit a sense of urgency. Seeking to ground the risk literature from the level of theoretical abstraction to that of lived experience, this thesis presents a case study of how risk is perceived in the tourist-dependent township of Akaroa. Despite the fact that New Zealand is generally seen as "safe" and "secure" and removed from the vicissitudes of global events, its economic reliance on international tourism ensures a susceptibility to external forces that disrupt global tourism flows. Given the recent publicity as to how such risks as climate change and peak oil may undermine international tourism in New Zealand, it is clear that areas that are particularly reliant on the international visitor market, like Akaroa, are significantly exposed to global events. This not only makes Akaroa an ideal case study in which to establish the extent to which global risks undermine ontological security in daily life, it also helps measure how seriously individuals in tourist-dependent areas consider the possibility of a substantial tourist decline.