Talking About Volcanoes: Institutional Narratives, the Nature of Risk, and Mount Mayon in the Philippines

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Volcanoes are talked about as if they are one and the same thing. If they are differentiated, they are referred to as active or inactive, and classified according to their structure and composition. Volcanoes, however, do not mean the same thing to all people. Mount Mayon in Albay province, Philippines, is a case in point. Through interviews with a volcanologist, an engineer, a politician, a historian, and a local resident, this paper explores what people think a volcano is and the risks it poses. These informants do not share a common narrative. Their personal storylines are embedded in public narratives that are fixed in time and place, and master narratives that reflect the social values and standards of their group or profession. How stories are told, what is said, and the context within which they emerge constitute an institutional narrative that is important to understanding better how people perceive risk and improving disaster risk management.