Grenfell Tower, 'stay put' and eliminationism in disasters

Join the Centre for Work, Organisation and Society as they host the annual Heather Höpfl Seminar with guest speaker Professor John Preston, Deputy Dean, Faculty of Social Science, University of Essex

  • Wed 23 Oct 19

    12:00 - 13:00

  • Colchester Campus


  • Event speaker

    Professor John Preston, Deputy Dean Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Essex

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars
    Centre for Work, Organisation and Society Research Seminar Series

  • Event organiser

    Essex Business School

  • Contact details

    Dr Sophie Hales

The Centre for Work, Organisation and Society (CWOS) warmly invites you to the first research seminar of the autumn term. With a focus on the Grenfell Tower Disaster and the origins of 'stay put' in fire safety policy, this seminar will put forward an argument that the invacuation strategy at Grenfell Tower was aimed at reducing agency of residents. Using Critical Race Theory, this presentation seeks to examine how counter-narrative can be used in the analysis of multi-causal disasters.

Seminar abstract

The Grenfell Tower disaster, in which at least seventy two people were killed, has been considered to be 'violent gentrification'.

Through analysis of the origins of 'stay put' and fire safety policy it is argued that the invacuation strategy in place at Grenfell Tower was aimed at reducing agency of residents.

Although the science of tower block fires is complex, the use of equivocal language in addition to 'stay put' leads to probabilistic eliminationism in a tower block fire.

Critical Race Theory is used to examine how counter-narrative can be used in complex, multi-casual analysis of disasters and emergencies.

(Höpfl and Matial, 2005)


This is a free event. Please feel free to bring along your colleagues, classmates and friends.

Speaker bio

Professor John Preston is the Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Social Science here at the University of Essex.

John works on the sociology of disasters, emergencies and existential threat as well as the sociology of education.

His research considers the racial and classed context of preparedness campaigns for disasters and emergencies. This has involved analysis of preparedness campaigns and films from;

  • the Cold War in the UK and US
  • reappraising working class children's agency in the Aberfan disaster
  • community case studies on radicalisation of public information for terror attacks
  • comparative analysis of national cultures of preparedness
  • critiquing popular conceptions of existential threat from nuclear war to A.I. 'super intellegence'

John's latest book Grenfell Tower: Preparedness, Race and Disaster Capitalism (2019) uses Marxist value critique and Critical Race Theory to argue that disaster preparedness increasingly works against working class and radicalised populations as exemplified by the Grenfell Tower fire.

John's research interest include;

  • preparedness and security
  • existential threat
  • Critical Race Theory / Whiteness Studies
  • Critical Theory and Marxism
  • skills and education
  • A.I. robotics and the future of work and humanity

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