4: Uncertainty – thinking across fields

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This lecture by Ian Scoones reflects on lessons from responding to volatility in banking and finance networks; managing reliability in critical infrastructures; early warning and preparedness around infectious disease outbreaks and reflecting on the construction of vulnerability in climate and disaster responses.

Convergent themes suggest important links to pastoralism. Can the wider debate about responding to uncertainty in today’s turbulent world be enhanced by gaining insights from those of who have long confronted environmental, market and governance uncertainties, such as pastoralists living in marginal areas?

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  • Based on the examples of financial networks, critical infrastructure, disease preparedness and disasters, what similarities/differences can you identify with pastoral systems you know about?
  • What core principles for responding to uncertainties emerge from across these fields?
  • What are the implications for policy and practice?


The core reading is the PASTRES Working Paper (second half), which contains many references on the examples shared in the lecture.

For discussions on the politics of uncertainty across a huge range of fields – from banking to insurance, disease control, migration, security and religion, among others – see the open access book edited by Ian Scoones and Andy Stirling, The Politics of Uncertainty: Challenges of Transformation (July/August 2020).

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