How do we perceive our vulnerability to terrorism? Is it through our sense of place, such as urban neighbourhoods where we live or offices where we work (as evidence has previously suggested); or is it actually through mobility, when we are travelling between places, the contradictory notion of ‘placelessness’? Recent research published in Urban Geography addresses this very question.
Focussing his research on people’s perceptions of their vulnerability to terrorism, Kevin Keenan conducted interviews with householders in Boston, US in 2008, and encouraged them to define terrorism and talk about their feelings towards it.
According to this study, it is transportation systems that make us feel more at risk to terrorism rather than the sense of ‘placelessness’ itself. It is not so much the destination of our journey, but rather the journey itself that influences our perceived vulnerability to terrorism.
Despite this, Keenan’s study also reveals that “the poor are quite aware of their vulnerability and relative immobility”, suggesting that our personal wealth can amplify or attenuate our sense of vulnerability. This highlights a policy need to increase mobility options for the poor, which may help to increase the chances of effective evacuation in the event of a terrorist incident.
Whether it is our sense place, or ‘placelessness’ that makes us feel most at risk of terrorism, this study remind us of the importance of being aware of our surroundings when we are on the move, to help us feel more secure in our everyday lives.
Place ontologies and a new mobilities paradigm for understanding awareness of vulnerability to terrorism in American cities, Kevin Keenan, Urban Geography, DOI:10.1080/02723638.2014.881022, published online 5 Feb 2014.