When the worst happens: anthropological perspectives on crises and disasters. Exploring fears of, reactions to, management of, analysis of and comment on locally and globally connected critical events
Tsunami, earthquake, oil spill, extreme weather, terrorist bombs, pandemic influenza: recent critical events or the fear of them have affected millions of Europeans and intensified governmental and academic discussions and concern, not only about climate change and international security, but also about risk, crisis and disaster management more generally. Crises and disasters or the fear of them are social and physical phenomena. Their management and interpretation are consequences of pre-existing social, economic and political processes, increasingly embedded in local-global relations, while such extraordinary events interrupt normality and put communities' coping capacities on trial. Structural vulnerabilities are produced in global political economies, just as local crisis management systems are developed within transnational frameworks of ideas and technologies. Disasters devastate locally but can also impact globally and signify social change and/or systemic reproduction. Global phenomena, such as tourism and migration, can bring together people in accidental communities when a disaster strikes. We aim to reaffirm the place of disasters and crises on the anthropological research agenda. We invite scholars to reflect upon all intersections in this context: the relationships between nature and society, the state and the market, and the local and the global, and the role and enactment of specific social actors in a crisis, such as the media, crisis managers, relief organisations and local communities crosscut by gender, age, class and culture. We encourage explorations in a range of related issues, such as the mitigation of impacts, reduction of vulnerabilities, enhancement of resilient patterns of behaviour, improvement of management organisation and articulation and assessment of meanings ascribed and framing of events and processes. Reflections on the means by which anthropological insights may be practically applied would be particularly welcomed.