Risky safety nets and sure-fire risk: How households are reconfiguring or nullifying house and contents insurance

Dr Kate Booth1

1University Of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia


Informed by assumptions of individuality and rationality, insurance is often conceived as a benign risk management tool. The knowledge that underpins insurance is also frequently assumed to be purely archival-statistical – a number’s game of rational calculation. Following this type of logic, noninsurance and underinsurance are signifiers of irrational decision-making and a number’s problem to be solved by educating more people into buying more insurance. Drawing upon empirical research into house and contents insurance, I describe how households reconfigure insurance as part of everyday life and in relation to a lack of trust in insurance companies. For households, insurance is not a straightforward risk management tool and safety net, and can be a risk in and of itself. I also reflect upon how urban and housing trends appear to be leading to a growing nullification of insurance. For households, this nullification or noninsurance appears to be, in part, a strategy of adaptation to everyday risks that are more sure-fire than those depicted in predictions of disaster and emergency. Paying attention to changes in the co-production of insurance and households appears warranted if this profit-driven product is to function in the public good.


Dr Kate Booth is Senior Lecturer in Human Geography and Planning at the University of Tasmania. Her research is motivated by an interest in place and places and the possibility of political dissent, and she is focused on how insurance is co-constituted in households.  She has also undertaken research in visitor studies, cultural-led urban change, environmental philosophy, and place theory and methodologies. Kate leads the University’s planning program, coordinating the professionally accredited Master of Planning course, and the Graduate Diploma in Environmental Planning. She currently teaches regional and urban planning, and has also taught social research methods.

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