Farías, Ignacio. 2014. “Misrecognizing Tsunamis: Ontological Politics and Cosmopolitical Challenges in Early Warning Systems.” The Sociological Review 62, S1: 61-87.
This article examines the debates around the failure of the warning system for the tsunami that occurred in Chile on the night of February 27, 2010. It focuses on the construction of “inaction” by two relevant institutions that misrecognized the potential damages of the tsunami and thus did not issue warnings.
Farías argues that tsunami warnings entail a process of recognition and misrecognition that amounts to a kind of ontological politics based upon categorical inclusion and exclusion.
He further argues that, if misrecognition of tsunamis is about the ontological politics of inclusion and exclusion, one way to improve the tsunami warning system is to construct a new kind of recognition that listens to previously excluded voices and remains open to the emergence of the unpredictable — an ethics of cosmopolitics.
He then attempts to reveal the different decisions and choices about inclusion and exclusion, which led to the warning system failures. He addresses misrecognition as a problem of internal, local networks rather than external causes. By tracing the production of uncertain knowledge through institutional networks, Farías shows that the two institutions responsible for tsunami warning and evacuation in Chile did not explore openly the possibility of a tsunami after the first, erroneous warning was cancelled.
He argues that those in charge of the institutions did not follow the ethics of cosmopolitics required for the recognition of tsunamis, rather than engaging in open exploration and acknowledgement of excluded entities and voices.
This article is appropriate for classes studying disaster warning and evacuation systems, pre-disaster preparation, and the uncertain production of knowledge about disaster hazards. Farías demonstrates the organizational and epistemological limitations of technical systems intended to enhance safety.
—Kangwon Lee, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology
Translation by Chihyung Jeon