Risk Management

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 101–121 | Cite as

The narrative structure of risk accounts

  • Hervé Corvellec
Original Article


In this article, the author considers such risk warning signs as ‘Stand behind the yellow line’ paradigmatic of risk accounts and approaches these signs in the light of narrative theory, more specifically structural and post-structural narratology. There are three related purposes for this approach. First, it is to demonstrate the relevance of narratology for risk research. Second, it is to provide a formal understanding of the narrative structure of risk accounts. Third, it is to use this understanding to show that risk accounts are not politically neutral but define inauspiciousness and attribute blame and responsibility. In this way, risk warning signs participate in the everyday governance of risk and contribute to the governmental rationality that characterizes risk. Concluding remarks discuss some implications of a narrative understanding of risk accounts for risk communication and management and underscore the need to take narrative ethics into account.


risk narrative analysis narratology narrative ethics public transportation 



This work is funded by research grants from the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Rescue Services Agency, the Emergency Management Agency, the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems, the Swedish Road Administration and the Swedish Maritime Administration (research grant: MSB 2009–4909). I wish to thank Åsa Boholm, Mats Boholm, Mattias Wengelin and the anonymous reviewers for valuable criticisms and suggestions. I am also grateful to Pat Zukowski for her invaluable editorial assistance.


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hervé Corvellec
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Service ManagementLund UniversityHelsingborgSweden

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