Nothing but “stimulating metaphysical theories”? Cultural expertise in the L’Aquila trial

In the L’Aquila “Major Risks” trial, seven earthquake experts were charged with manslaughter for having disseminated bad information to the inhabitants of L’Aquila in early 2009, when the Italian city was hit by a deadly earthquake. The case has given rise to (and is still the topic of) heated international debate about the role and responsibility of scientists in society, the proper division of labour between experts and policymakers, and how risk should be communicated in public. During the trial, several researchers in cultural studies and behavioural science testified in court about the influence exerted by the defendants on L’Aquila’s inhabitants. Using fundamentally different methodological approaches and theoretical perspectives, they gave divergent interpretations of the events and of the broader questions raised by the case. The talk will reconstruct their testimonies in the context of the trial and of Italy’s criminal procedure.

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