University Of Tasmania

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Emotion, vulnerability, ontology: operationalising 'ontological security' for qualitative environmental sociology

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 10:15 authored by Rebecca BanhamRebecca Banham
Environmental sociologists have rarely engaged with the concept of ontological security. Further, those writers who have engaged with the concept have tended to focus predominately on themes of risk and disaster. In this paper I outline several critiques addressing the major methodological issues with Anthony Giddens’ (and others’) conceptualisation of ontological security and –offer my own operationalised model of ontological security for qualitative environmental inquiries. I illustrate this model ‘in action’ through a case study of individuals’ emotional and ontological relationships with forests in Tasmania, Australia. A site of significant environmental political history and conflict, the Tasmanian case study provides an ideal context through which to explore the historically and culturally situated process of ontological security. The paper closes with a discussion of how these insights reflect and extend three emerging and salient themes within environmental social sciences: emotion, temporality, and ontology. Concluding this discussion, this paper demonstrates that ontological security is a useful framework in rendering intelligible and articulable the abstract, emotional, and ontological aspects of human-nonhuman engagements.


Publication title

Environmental Sociology








School of Social Sciences



Place of publication


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Socio-economic Objectives

Environmental ethics; Expanding knowledge in human society