Third-party funded project

Socio-Cultural Constructions of Vulnerability and Resilience. German and Polish Perceptions of Threatening Aquatic Phenomena in Odra River Regions (CultCon)

Research Department: Dynamics of Communication, Knowledge and Spatial Development

IRS Research Topic: Shared Knowledge - Locally and Over Distance Conceptual Approaches to Crisis and Resilience New Vulnerabilities and Resilience Strategies

Project Leader within IRS: Prof. Dr. Gabriela Christmann

Project Team: Kamil Bembnista Dr. Thorsten Heimann

Consortium: Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space (Coordination) Polnische Akademie für Wissenschaften

Funding Organization: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

Duration: 05/2016 - 12/2018


The aim of the project is to investigate in how far ways of dealing with aquatic phenomena such as, for example, floods in river regions is influenced by cultural knowledge. It focuses on perceptions of potential vulnerability (constructions of vulnerability) and local risk reduction practices (constructions of resilience). The project intends to address an existing research gap that can be identified in the field of research on vulnerability and resilience. There, strongly influenced by human ecology and natural hazards research, the terms “vulnerability” and “resilience” are still conceived as an objective matters of fact. Although this is a legitimate perspective, this ignores that societies, on the basis of their past and present culturally influenced experiences with natural phenomena, may develop their own conceptions of vulnerability and resilience. These culture specific forms of knowledge may finally have consequences for action.

Against this background, the research question of the project is: How are constructions of vulnerability and resilience structured locally? Which role do cultural knowledge constructions of a respective group or society (e.g. language, literature, media) play for its genesis?

Using the example of Odra river regions around Eisenhüttenstadt, Frankfurt/Oder, Słubice and Wrocław we reconstruct how cultural orders of knowledge are established in public and literary media discourses and, if applicable, how they differ. Next, in a methodically complex manner (by means of a population survey and expert interviews) it shall be proofed to what extent respective cultural patterns can also be found in the perceptions of citizens and experts and which consequences they have for local action, e.g. for flood protection.

The research project contributes to basic research as hitherto uncharted discourse theoretical assumptions shall be proofed empirically. Simultaneously, it will also be possible to make assertions about the way in which cultural orders of knowledge can have consequences for concrete local strategies for action.

This project is conducted by a German-Polish research team consisting of sociologist as well as cultural and literary scientists.



The IRS' internationalisation strategy exhibits a distinct geographical focus. This is driven by the conviction that such a focus allows scholars to pursue in-depth research on matters pertaining to these regions, and to establish productive and lasting relationships with other scholars and academic institutions. The IRS has concentrated its internationalisation efforts on North America, Scandinavia and Poland. Variegated ties to the latter country were established twenty years ago and have been intensified in the context of the IRS' internationalisation strategy and through on-going collaborative research projects. more info


Heimann, T., Barcz, A., Christmann, G., Bembnista, K., Buchta-Bartodziej, P., & Michalak, A. (2021). Vulnerability and Resilience Embedded in Discourses: Literature, Media, and Actors’ Cultural Knowledge in German and Polish River Regions. Space and Culture, 2021, 1-15. DOI: