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Elision but Inexorable Risk: what kind of resilience to soil pollution in former industrial areas?

EMIR research project takes the notion of resilience seriously and questions it from three perspectives: first, taking into account the slow temporal disturbances that affect an area and the answers given (or not) to these perturbations that will be analyzed in a comprehensive understanding of the economic and social dynamics system; secondly, by focusing on « very low profile » disturbances that are not subject to any mobilization or poorly legible, inefficient or even unrecognized mobilization (s) – the resilient character of a given area is often inferred from visible signs of change and adaptation to crisis phenomena that are just as visible – and finally, considering passive forms of resilience that lead to degraded situations and lead to question implicit reference to the « right » reaction and / or capacity of action.

In order to assess this research questioning, we focus on « disqualified » territorial configurations both from economically / social and environmental / technological points of view. Within former industrial cities, various contaminated hitherto neglected have obvious interest to host (re)development projects, sometimes forcing local actors to implement acceptable remediation techniques from an environmental, landscape and economic point of view and from the point of view of local residents. Could the « very low profile » of the risk of soil pollution and the discreet way local actors deal with it be considered as a sign of resignation or accommodation or even resilience? How have they been managing with it so far? Basically, does this advent of « risk » – or at least « problem » – generated by soil pollution change the local apprehension of the (de)industrialization and therefore the local capability of mobilization and action?

We undertake fieldwork on four different areas to answer these questions: three in Saint-Etienne area (Terrenoire neighborhood in Saint-Etienne, Rive-de-Gier, Le Chambon-Feugerolles) where the issue of contaminated soil has not been the subject of a single global study but appears daily as a problem for local urban actors; and one in Swansea, Wales, UK.

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