Politics of disasters (EN)

Martin Sökefeld (Munich University)
Edward Simpson (SOAS)
Session slots:

Short abstract:

The workshop invites papers based on empirical research that address various aspects of the interrelation between ("natural") disasters and politics.

Long abstract:

Breaking the routine of daily life, disasters like floods, storms or earthquakes create spaces of uncertainty and anxiety. Although most "natural" disasters appear to originate beyond human responsibility, they are in fact not simply "natural". They take place in social and political spaces and catastrophic effects are often produced by particular social and political configurations. Beside destruction, disasters create space for human action. Uncertainty has to be overcome. While media reports often portray "victims" of disasters as fatalistic and passive, research shows them to be actively coping with their situation. This workshop looks at the political dimension of disasters. Political action may be related to disasters in manifold ways. More often than not, a disaster is not simply perceived as a blow of fate but government or other institutions are held responsible for its consequences, as in the case of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Disasters are often politicised as welcome opportunities that enable a government to show its benevolence or its opponents to take the authorities to task for neglect and mismanagement or indifference. Protest in the wake of disasters may present an opportunity for political actors to recruit support. In conflict situations disasters often contribute to particular dynamics of contention. Also post-disaster humanitarian interventions for relief and reconstruction are by no means non-political but are closely related to local, national and global political contexts. The workshop invites contributions based on empirical research that address different aspects of the "politics of disasters".