Assessing risk discourses: Nano S&T in the Global South

Minna Kanerva


Nano science and technology (nano S&T) has potential to change our lives for the better, but at the same time, it causes also a significant amount of concern in terms of related health, environmental, ethical and societal risks. It is increasingly recognized that addressing these concerns requires appropriate governance of nano S&T, which should arguably involve a number of different stakeholders, including various publics. Nano S&T is seen as having particular positive and negative implications in the Global South, and it appears that discourses around such issues in the South have not yet been systemically researched. This paper will therefore investigate nano S&T discourses in South Africa, India, Hong Kong and Kenya by analysing newspaper media in these countries. Most nano S&T media studies done previously in the Global North have looked at the risk-opportunity dichotomy, but here a somewhat different approach is taken by testing concepts such as risk actions and complexity in the context of media discourse analysis. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods, this paper will examine which risk actions are prominent in the newspaper stories, analyse the complexities included in the discourse, as well as the general framing of nano S&T. Trends over the last decade will also be investigated. Finally, the results from the included countries will be compared with each other, as well as with similar studies done in the North. This paper will argue, firstly, that, although they share some features, media discourses around nano S&T in the South and the North vary considerably. Secondly, a more methodological argument will also be made. Looking at risk actions and complexities included in various discourses is potentially an interesting analytical method, which could contribute to analysing risk discourses and to successful and inclusive risk governance in general, also regarding other global risk issues.

Key words: nano S&T, governance, Global South, risk, ignorance

JEL codes: O30, O32, O33, O38, O53, O55, O57

UNU-MERIT Working Papers ISSN 1871-9872

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