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IUAES 2013: Evolving Humanity, Emerging Worlds. 5-10 August 2013.

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Evolving humanity, emerging worlds

Manchester, UK; 5th-10th August 2013


Anthropology of crises and disasters

Location University Place 3.210
Date and Start Time 07 Aug, 2013 at 09:00


Franz Krause (University of Cologne) email
Jonathan Skinner (University of Roehampton) email
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Short Abstract

This panel explores the intricate socio-cultural and material processes that come to cause different calamities, as well as the capacities, improvisations and resiliences of affected people in dealing with them.

Long Abstract

The contemporary world is frequently presented as one of constant crises and ubiquitous disasters. The combined processes of the political-economic developments of inequalities and a natural world increasingly seen as out of control have led to an awareness of growing vulnerabilities. This view resonates well with popular discourses of climate change, disease, economic crisis, political upheaval, violent conflict, peak oil, and unattainable development goals.

In-depth anthropological research, however, shows that crises and disasters are situated not only in these global discourses, but also in very specific historical contexts. Political ecological studies, for instance, have shown how vulnerabilities are created by powerful actors, and how environmental risks are unevenly distributed. Fieldwork on local knowledge, moreover, has revealed how affected people develop forecasting mechanisms, coping strategies and adaptive capacities to live with, or in spite of, crises. Attention to the minute details of how a disaster is played out in everyday lives, what it means to the affected people and how they enact it and defy it in its various temporal and spatial dimensions creates a much fuller picture than the one repeatedly broadcasted in the mass media.

This panel enables a discussion between various anthropological studies that question the inevitability of crises and disasters. They explore the intricate socio-cultural and material processes that come to cause different calamities, as well as the capacities, improvisations and resiliences of affected people in dealing with them. Thereby, they trace both the everyday-ness of crises and the disastrous-ness of 'normal' life.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Hunger and Reforestation: Environmental Dilemma of the Food Aid Project in Northern Ethiopia

Author: Keiichiro Matsumura (Okayama University)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper analyzes food aid projects aiming at reforestation in Northern Ethiopia and clarifies that environmental degradation in the region has been envisaged as the reason for the "hunger". Those discourses conceal the socio-political reasons of food insecurity and produce unsolved dilemmas.

Long Abstract

This paper argues that the development policy in Ethiopia is drawn and implemented mainly on the basis of a deforestation discourse. The attitude is reinforced by international agencies and donor countries that provide massive food aid to tackle "hunger." The food aid has provided concepts and resources to realize the discourse, although the donor countries offer the aid primarily to serve their political and economical interests.

Ethiopia has received enormous food aid, particularly after the famine of the 1970s. The relief food has frequently been utilized in many development projects promoting tree-planting under the Food-For-Work scheme in which people receive food in return of their labor. In 2005, an extensive food aid program, Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP), was initiated with the support of the World Bank, UN agencies, and donor countries. A case study of the program in Wollo area indicates that the "hunger" is still considered a result of deforestation in Ethiopia and that tree-planting and soil conservation practices continue to be the foremost target of food aid programs. Although the concepts and institutions of the current program are sophisticated, the circle of "hunger," "environment," and "food aid" still makes it possible to conceal the other socio-political reasons of food insecurity and produces unsolved dilemmas and contradictions over "a desirable environment."

Disaster vulnerability and its linkages to caste: A case study of Post-cyclone village of Motto in India

Author: Sapam Ranabir Singh (Panjab Univeristy)  email
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Short Abstract

Vulnerability is socially determined and depends on many factors that include exposure, marginalization, physical susceptibility, socio-economic fragility and lack of resilience. It is made up of the characteristics of a person or group and their situation that influence their capacity to anticipate, to cope with, resist and recover from the impact of a natural hazard. In this research article an attempt is made to locate the term vulnerability and its association with caste in a hierarchical village setting in India.

Long Abstract

This paper is based on the study conducted in the Motto village in Puri district of Orissa, India. The study mainly used qualitative methods driving extended narratives from people impacted by the Orissa Super Cyclone of 1999. Factors that affect social vulnerability include lack of access to resources such as information and knowledge to cope with stress generated by natural disasters. There is complete absence of technological avenues to minimise these losses in remote areas of Orissa and rehabilitation efforts further get hampered because of deep rooted caste and ethnic biases. The research study has documented several case histories that demonstrate intense linkages between vulnerability and caste identity in local context and asserts the need for detailed anthropological inquiry in the subject.

Water Management and Conflict in the Chinese Countryside: an ethnography of a looming crisis

Author: Andrea Enrico Pia (London School of Economics)  email
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Short Abstract

China is experiencing a dramatic pressure on its water resources. The introduction in the countryside of a new framework for water management has dwarfed the role of the state in the management of water and deteriorated its overall quality, thus heightening the hostilities among different users.

Long Abstract

The length and occurrence of droughts in China have increased considerably in the last few years. The ensuing water crisis, which now affects the whole country, will loom large over the future prospects of the Chinese economy. Moreover, the lack of water experienced by many people in China has not failed to cause social unrest. In the last decade the confrontation between the farmers and the local administration around water allocations has risen, leading often to overt violence.

As a way to tackle this multifaceted crisis, China amended its Water Law in 2002, thereby introducing a new framework for water management. This shift in governance has produced the adoption of a set of principles emphasizing the need for increased participation of users in water management, and the implementation of water conservation technologies. New inequalities are thus created: while urban dwellers are increasingly being protected from the effects of the shortage, rural communities are facing the contradiction of an imposed economic development agenda under mounting environmental constraints and diminishing state intervention.

This paper, drawing from two different ethnographic studies conducted in rural China between 2007 and 2013, explores how drought and the politics of water management are played out in the Chinese rural countryside. In particular it discusses how mistrust between farmers and the many institutions supervising water management in the communities impact the water reform and its effectiveness. In this process feelings of dependency, care and betrayal are generated, pushing often local farmers and the state to violent confrontations.


Author: Elya Tzaneva (Institute for Ethnology and Folklore Studies, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Sofia)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper investigates the sudden outbreak of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) in South-East Bulgaria (area of Strandja Mountain) starting in late 2010 and early months of 2011, and the different ways the local population and officials coped with the outbreak.

Long Abstract

This paper investigates the outbreak of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) in the area of Strandja Mountain, SE Bulgaria in early 2011. Bulgarian local authorities, following the central administration, have implemented the measures provided for in the EU Council Directive 2003/85 of September 29th 2003 on community measures for the control of the disease. According to EU legislation, animals susceptible to the outbreak and any species they came into contact with were to be culled and buried, even though most of them were completely healthy according to the understanding of the breeders. Since then, a process of slaughtering domestic animals was carried out according to the regulations, but it was emotionally painful for the villagers, creating long-lasting consequences. During expanded field work in three villages of Strandja, which were differently impacted by the disease (based upon the center-periphery theory), observations were made on the villagers' reaction to these extreme measures. By presenting and researching the disaster in its local specificities the paper reveals how daily lives intersect with dramatic events, and how collective interests can cause deep individual trauma. The prevailing perception of the people concerned is that slaughter was supported by a minority of official representatives, who sought to advance rather the "interests of the particular political moment" (country's accession into EU short before), different from those of the population affected.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


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