EASA, 2006: EASA06: Europe and the world

Bristol, UK, 18/09/2006 – 21/09/2006


When the worst happens: anthropological perspectives on crises and disasters

Location Queens Pugsley LT
Date and Start Time 21 Sep, 2006 at 11:30


Mils Hills (University of Northampton) email
Susann Baez Ullberg (Uppsala University) email
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Short Abstract

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

Long Abstract

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.


Improving the quality of decision-making for crises and disasters

Author: Mils Hills (University of Northampton)  email
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Long Abstract

Anthropologically-grounded approaches have much to offer decision-makers in preparing them for their role in managing crises and disasters that directly or indirectly threaten their organisations.

This paper will argue that 'cultural consulting' can add significant value to preparations for business continuity, crisis management and emergency planning. Anthropology can unite insight into (i) the context of the organisation; (ii) the culture of those with the role and responsibility for taking the best quality decisions in difficult circumstances and (iii) the nature of crises in our complex, networked world.

Frankly put, the majority of those working in or for organisations in the fields of business continuity and contingency planning have little intellectual or philosophical foundation to their activities. And yet individuals and consultancies offer services and develop plans which by their very subject matter demand that deep thought has been undertaken.

However, internal customers and external clients are unlikely to be satisfied by deep thought alone. Anthropologists must develop the ability to deliver products and services which draw on intellectual and philosophical foundations but which are distinguished by delivering to the customer's need to a quality that raises the bar for competitors.

By drawing on case studies from the author's public and private practice in consulting, training and exercising, this paper will demonstrate the arguably unique value that anthropology can offer in a specific, proprietary and applied form. With anthropologists frequently invoking the aspiration to improve the lot of their fellow human beings, supporting those whose decisions affect employees, citizens and consumers is clearly an important potential market for our skills.

Multiple disasters and women-headed household's vulnerability: a missing element in governmental and non-governmental responses in Orissa, India

Author: Nibedita Shankar Ray (Warwick University)  email
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Long Abstract

Multiple disasters pose serious challenges to South Asia's development. The consequences for the poor in particular, are well known. Little is known of the specific ways recurrent multiple disasters affect women-headed households in rural areas and the efficacy of government and non-government responses to mitigate the impact on these households. This particular study attempts to bring these issues to the fore in the context of Orissa, an eastern state in India, highly prone to multiple hazards (floods, cyclone, and drought).

Orissa has recently experienced a number of high-profile disasters, namely the super-cyclone in 1999, floods in 2001 and 2003, and drought in 2002. To mitigate the impact of multiple disasters the government and non-government organisations in Orissa responded through relief, shelter, housing and micro-credit. Given this multiple disasters situation and multiple disaster responses over a period of five years (1999-2004), this study brings out the sociological and gendered aspect of multiple disasters from a particular group of women headed households who have lived through all of these disasters in one particular place. Also the efficacies of the government and non-government disaster responses have been assessed based on women's stories of vulnerability reduction.

Methodology adopted for this study was largely qualitative in nature. Various methods adopted to collect data were participant observation for a period of eight months (August 2003- April 2004) in a rural coastal village of Orissa; complimented by structured, semi-structured and un-structured interview techniques; and documentary evidence. Therefore this study in social anthropological perspective explicates not only gendered living experiences of multiple disasters, but also how "multiple disasters" in general is perceived by government and non-government organisations - manifested through their disaster policies in increasing/reducing gender vulnerabilities to multiple disasters.

Imece Evleri: a post-disaster housing recovery project in Duzce-Turkey

Author: Fatma Belkıs Kumbetoglu (Marmara University)  email
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Long Abstract

Co-authors: Ýnci User, Betül Yarar

Housing recovery programs after disasters involve great costs but may not always fully correspond to the needs of the beneficiaries. For most individuals and families the home has great psychological significance. Home loss and being forced to change one's neighborhood as a result of disasters may be almost equally stressful as the loss of relatives or friends.

If the beneficiaries of recovery project are enabled to participate in its planning and implementation, they may be expected to accept and enjoy its outcomes far more readily than otherwise. However, if the impact of a disaster is too large and if too many people remain homeless, large-scale projects are more likely to be adopted and there may not be sufficient time and resources to consider the varying needs and wishes of single individuals and households.

The two earthquakes that have taken place in 1999 in the Marmara Region of Turkey have constituted major disasters leading to the death of over 30 thousand people and necessitating huge reconstruction processes in a number of provinces in the region.This presantation is about a very special small scale housing recovery project that has been realized in three villages of the Duzce.

Duzce suffered great losses in the two earthquakes and the epicentre of the second(Richter Magnitude:7.2)was within the frontiers of Duzce.As part of the large field study concerning the situation of the province 5 years after the disaster, the housing project to be presented here was also studied. The project is titled 'Imece Evleri?Imece Houses'. In Turkish, imece means collaboration among peasants and implies collectively accomplished tasks in the traditional village economy.

The presentation will emphasize the importance of cultural and personal elements in housing arrangements and point to the necessity of empowering disaster victims to participate in the planning and implementation of recovery projects.

Transforming crisis: what the world looks like in 2017

Author: Philip Kao (University of St Andrews)  email
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Long Abstract

The events of September 11th, 2001 sent nervous shockwaves around the world inaugurating a political sense of uncertainty. Additionally, the threat of global terrorism compounded by the occurrence of natural calamities, and the desire to control and manage the 'gap of pain' continue to defy existing government planning capabilities, and institutional arrangements. As a result, the defense community has recently initiated a plethora of newly designed experiments and war games to cope with future conflicts, and contingencies.

My paper will explore one such unclassified war game which attracted national media attention at the Army War College in Carlisle, PA. At one level, I will provide an analysis of the 'culture of crisis planning', which involves analyzing the transformational push for co-evolving 'institutional cultures': in particular between the US military, its international coalition partners, and the greater civilian interagency world.

The role of anthropology in development has been significantly documented over the past two decades, spanning from critiques of development discourse to a flushing out of state and market ideologies and reifications. What I intend to do here is provide insight into the world of crisis management and prevention from the viewpoint of an experimental and operational concept called the Multinational Interagency Group (MNIG). The MNIG is made up of a cadre of international development and humanitarian subject matter experts who attempt to influence military planning and decision-making at the strategic and operational levels. It is situated in the seams between the military's planning design and the amorphous civilian political world. I will draw from Norman Long's actor-oriented approach and interface analysis, to explore how agents of change manufacture and frame the problems of crisis as they socialize, reflect and react to simulations, and interpretations of globalization, complexity science, and local communities. One of the interesting conclusions will be that the focus and energy spent on crisis prevention is equally a socially motivating force for establishing new relationships and 'views of the world' as in the case of social life after a real crisis.