The clocks run at slightly different speeds. Clashing timeframes in COVID-19 health risk governance

Sabrina Huizenga*, Hester van de Bovenkamp, Lieke Oldenhof, Roland Bal

*Corresponding author for this work

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Decision-making processes in times of crisis are rarely scrutinised. In this study we open up the ‘black box’ of regional COVID-19 decision-making. From March 2020 to June 2021, we had the unique opportunity to do (mostly) on-site ethnographic research and watch the unfolding of COVID-19 decision-making, as this took place in meetings. This enabled us to examine how timeframes played a key role within an important decision-making forum in the Netherlands: the ‘regional safety authority’, responsible for regional crisis and disaster management. Our study highlights how timeframes structure the ways in which normative choices and dilemmas are considered and political decisions are made. We identify three timeframes that ‘perform’ a specific temporality: the ‘no time to waste’ frame, the ‘taking the time’ frame and the ‘future time’ frame. These timeframes form a specific composition of (1) patterns of action, (2) objects at risk, and (3) values that feature in decision-making. We reveal how the ‘no time to waste’ frame dominated decision-making, producing a solitary focus on a rather narrow concept of safety, while other timeframes and other voices, measures and values were marginalised. We argue that timeframes can and should be negotiated and made explicit in a balanced approach to governing a pandemic or other types of long-term crisis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-386
Number of pages21
JournalHealth, Risk and Society
Issue number7-8
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sept 2023

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Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


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