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‘A low and watery place’: A case study of flood history and sustainable community engagement in flood risk management in the County of Berkshire, England

To address increasing flood risks and ensure flood management interventions are appropriate for local contexts, the English system of flood risk management strives for devolution of responsibilities to actors previously uninvolved in professional decision-making, and advocates for a comprehensive community engagement in flood management-related policy making and delivery. This paper explores the influence of local flood histories on community engagement in flood risk management and its sustainability over time, in England. Building on an ethnographic case-study of one community in the County of Berkshire, England, we examine how two local flood groups reproduce local flood history and identify how these reproductions affect the sustainability of their flood management initiatives. The data were collected using semi-structured interviews, field observations, and archival research. A constructivist strain of grounded theory was used for the data analysis. The findings showcase that different readings of the flood history of an area may coexist and compete within one flood-prone community. These different readings of flood history are representative of dynamic cultural models that pertain to the actors involved in flood risk management. We argue that the sustainability of the flood group's engagement in flood management depends on the extent to which the group's historical reading and its corresponding cultural model fits those of the institutional stakeholders. A mismatch of local and institutional cultural models is likely to lead to flood group's disempowerment and disengagement from flood risk management.
Author: Puzyreva, Kseniia;de Vries, Daniel H.
Language: English
Pubished By: International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
Pubished date: January 2021

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