HomeLes outre-mers français face aux risques : gestion, acceptabilité sociale et conflictualité

HomeLes outre-mers français face aux risques : gestion, acceptabilité sociale et conflictualité

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Published on Wednesday, November 30, 2022


Les onze territoires habités sur les trois océans qui constituent les outre-mers français, se caractérisent par une exposition à des aléas dont les effets peuvent être particulièrement dévastateurs. Les événements exceptionnels engendrent des crises et révèlent rapidement les défaillances des systèmes d’urgence notamment sanitaire. Une nouvelle façon d’appréhender les risques par la vulnérabilité et l’exposition des enjeux a conforté une logique institutionnelle, mais celle-ci se heurte, bien qu’en apparence plus participative, à l’opposition des habitants des espaces ultramarins. L’objectif de ce dossier de la revue Echogéo est précisément de mettre au centre de l’analyse le rapport des habitants ultramarins avec les risques auxquels ils sont confrontés et à leur gestion.


Guest editors

  • Thierry Nicolas, thierrynicolas@wanadoo.fr, maître de conférences à l’Université de Guyane. Chercheur au laboratoire MINEA (Migrations, INterculturalité et Education en Amazonie).
  • François Taglioni, francois.taglioni@univ-reunion.fr, est professeur à l’Université de La Réunion.


The French overseas territories, comprising of eleven inhabited territories in three oceans, are characterized by their exposure to diverse hazards whose effects can be particularly devastating. The greatest disasters recorded on a national scale in terms of human or economic costs have often taken place in these territories. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, cyclones or epidemics (malaria, chikungunya, zika, dengue, etc.) have given rise to catastrophic events, causing tens of thousands of casualties since the beginning of the twentieth century, and profoundly altering the economic and demographic trajectories of overseas entities.

Despite an improvement in the level of human development and the living conditions of local populations over the last few decades, the French overseas territories are still characterized by their fragile and uncertain socio-economic dynamics that make them vulnerable to a multitude of hazards. Exceptional events generate crises and reveal the failures of emergency systems, particularly in terms of health. However, at the turn of the twenty-first century, we have witnessed a shift from a hazard-centered approach to one that places vulnerability at the center of research and risk management policies in the overseas territories. This new way of understanding risk through vulnerability and exposure has reinforced institutional approaches that aim, on the one hand, to establish a framework prescribing specific models of occupation of geographical space, while on the other hand improving the behavior of individuals when a disruptive event occurs. Risks including soil pollution, seaweed stranding, shark attacks and cyclone landings are now considered through this prism.

This institutional take on risk management has its shortcomings and, although it appears more participatory, it is met with opposition from the inhabitants of the overseas regions. In Saint-Martin, the introduction of a new Natural Risk Prevention Plan (PPRN) following the passage of Hurricane Irma in September 2017 generated strong tensions. In the Reunion Island, some highly coercive measures including a ban on access to the sea to reduce the risk of shark attacks, have been contested. In the West Indies, the management of the chlordecone crisis was deemed inappropriate by impacted populations, who protested on numerous occasions to denounce what they regard as a scandal. In French Polynesia, the health fallout of the nuclear tests that were conducted there for decades also raised many protests.

This issue of Echogéo will focus on the relations the French overseas territories’ inhabitants maintain with the risks they face and their management. How do populations perceive the actions taken by the authorities? Do institutional visions match their practices and knowledge of the territory? Are they seen as mere passive recipients? Does the institutions’ management of certain risks (including natural risks) influence their perception of the management of other risks, in particular in the field of health? Comparisons with other overseas territories in the world (British, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, American, etc.) may be presented to evaluate the potential specificities of risk management in the French overseas territories.

Thematic orientations

This call for proposals proposes to address the four following thematic orientations:

The social acceptability of risk

This first angle will aim to assess the degree of acceptance of risk. The theme of social acceptability is still a blind spot in research on the overseas territories. Few studies have sought to highlight the factors that contribute to this acceptability. And yet it seems essential to better understand whether the perception of values associated with hazards and issues (material and human) lowers or increases the level of acceptability, and makes any disruption more or less tolerable (Leone et Vinet, 2006). In recent years, the transfer of new concepts such as “Build Back Better” or “One Health” to the overseas territories calls for a better understanding of the degree of social acceptance of each of the risks involved.

Empirical and vernacular knowledge of risk

Empirical and vernacular knowledge held by individuals provides an often neglected source of implicit knowledge on risk that would need to be highlighted by written studies. We need to move beyond the assumptions of the formal models of risk presuming that individuals evaluate risks in a rational and objective manner (Leneveu J. et Laville M., 2012). Written or oral discourses in French or in vernacular languages convey a particular knowledge and perception of risk among the ultramarines. These discourses carry representations and judgments about existence, foresight or morality that need to be measured (Jno-Baptiste, 2007), to shed light on a specific relation to existence. For example, the presence of a form of fatalism in discourses is difficult to reconcile with prevention activities that promote proactivity, but it may prove useful to better understand the overseas populations’ resilience capacity.

The memory of past events

Under this angle, we will select articles highlighting the role played by the memory of disruptive events in disaster risk reduction. Memory can indeed support risk management policies by reinforcing preventive information and the discourses stemming from technical and scientific knowledge. Memories of events and external contributions generally have a positive influence on the residents of a given territory in foreseeing a potential new occurrence of the hazard. People can thus adopt attitudes and behaviors that allow them to better cope with the event. However, contributors may also consider the potential for memory to enter into dissonance with other vulnerability factors, thus creating biases that prevent inhabitants from being aware of the reality of the hazards. Memories can also fade away, leading people to forget about risk or attempt to cover it up. Habituation and loss of vigilance can cause people to ignore dangers (Pagney Bénito-Espinal, 2019).

Protest movements and risk management in the French overseas territories

Finally, this issue will address the protest movements led by the inhabitants of the overseas territories in response to risk management policies. Such policies can appear remote from people’s everyday reality, or even disconnected from the grassroots, and generate a form of mistrust in top-down decision-making processes. Such feelings are sometimes exacerbated by institutional communications, which do not systematically use vernacular languages and lingua francas or local social codes. This theme is particularly relevant at a time when many overseas territories have been experiencing large-scale protest movements that have paralyzed their economic and social life for weeks or months. Claims related to risk management can be aggregated with other demands regarding the cost of living, access to employment, social inequalities, insecurity or even immigration, providing powerful sources of conflict. Associations, citizens’ groups and even unions are able to win over the inhabitants by drawing from a variety of registers (identity, social, postcolonial, etc.). In this perspective, we particularly welcome proposals for articles introducing comparative approaches, both thematic and territorial, to risk management in French overseas territories and in other countries, assessing the sometimes-disputed impact of scientific approaches and political measures.

Submission guidelines

The articles in this feature may be written in French, English or Spanish and contain between 35,000 and 40,000 characters (plus illustrations). Please refer to the author recommendations for guidelines on how to present the text, bibliography, abstracts and illustrations, as set out in the editorial guidelines.

Texts may also be submitted on this topic for other EchoGeo’s quarterly sections: Sur le Métier (On the Job), Sur l’Image (On Image) and Sur l’Écrit (On Writing). They must comply with the expectations of each section, as set out in the editorial lines. For example, editors of the On Image section expect texts that provoke reflection on the status of image in geographical research and/or writing.

All proposals must be sent to Thierry Nicolas (thierrynicolas@wanadoo.fr) and François Taglioni (francois.taglioni@univ-reunion.fr) who are the coordinators of this feature, with a copy sent to Karine Delaunay (EchoGeo@univ-paris1.fr), Editorial Secretary, who will send them to the reviewer(s)

by 15 February 2023.

The feature will be published in issue n° 65 (July-September 2023).


Jno-Baptiste P., 2007. Le langage créole de la nature dans les locutions et proverbes guadeloupéens : quel enseignement des savoirs culturels ? In Jno–Baptiste P., Yacou A. (dir), Les risques majeurs aux Antilles – approche culturelle et prévention sociale, Paris, Karthala, p. 223-250.

Leneveu J., Laville M.M., 2012. La perception et l’évaluation des risques d’un point de vue psychologique. Note de recherche. VertigO - la revue électronique en sciences de l’environnement [En ligne], vol. 12, n° 1. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/vertigo/12125 - DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/vertigo.12125 DOI : 10.4000/vertigo.12125

Leone F., Vinet F., 2006. La vulnérabilité, un concept fondamental au cœur des méthodes d’évaluation des risques naturels. In Leone F., Vinet F. (dir.), La vulnérabilité des sociétés et des territoires face aux menaces naturelles : analyses géographiques, Montpellier, Presses universitaires de la Méditerranée, 146  p.

Pagney Bénito-Espinal F., 2019, « Construire une culture du risque efficiente ? Le cas de la Guadeloupe et de la Martinique », Géoconfluences, École normale supérieure de Lyon, DGESCO. URL: http://geoconfluences.ens-lyon.fr/informations-scientifiques/dossiers-thematiques/risques-et-societes/articles-scientifiques/culture-du-risque-antilles


  • Wednesday, February 15, 2023


  • risque, Outre-Mer, vulnérabilité, logique institutionnelle, conflictualité, acceptation sociale


  • François Taglioni
    courriel : francois [dot] taglioni [at] univ-reunion [dot] fr
  • Thierry Nicolas
    courriel : thierry [dot] nicolas [at] univ-guyane [dot] fr

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Karine Delaunay
    courriel : karine [dot] delaunay [at] ird [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Les outre-mers français face aux risques : gestion, acceptabilité sociale et conflictualité », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, November 30, 2022, https://doi.org/10.58079/1a2u

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