The Anthropology of Disaster - Anthropologists on Katrina

(post in progress)

A quick round-up of some news and blog-entries on the Katrina-disaster:

Anthropologist Anthony Oliver-Smith has researched how communities re-emerge from destruction. He's surprisingly pessimistic according to a press release (University of Florida):

“When neighborhoods that are tightly woven together get impacted like this, and houses get torn up and people are displaced, that breaks up some of those cooperative networks; they lose access to services they can afford such as child care,” he said. He hope authorities will consider those needs when they help people rebuild."

His pessimism might be explained by some findings in his book Catastrophe and Culture: the Anthropology of Disaster that he edited together with Susanna M. Hoffman: People won't learn from past disaster experience and adjust their behavior accordingly.

In an review of this book in The American Ethnologist Paul L. Doughty writes:

With the relentless attention given to all kinds of disasters by the popular media, from sinking ferries in South Asia, exploding volcanoes, El Niño perturbations, oil spills, and airplane crashes, it is high time anthropologists turned serious attention to the examination of their impacts on society and culture in both the short and long term.

Among the case studies in the book, we'll find a optimistic review of how indigenous people managed to deal with the effects of natural perturbations that have regularly caused major problems throughout Andean history.

Paul L. Doughty:

Surely this is a hopeful finding, suggesting that people today might also learn from past disaster experience and adjust their behavior accordingly. But will they? Reading other case materials in this book, however, one becomes a bit depressed because it seems humans are reticent to learn from past experience and show an unwillingness to accept the conclusions to be drawn from it.

>> read the whole review

>> Anthony Oliver-Smith: Environment and Disaster in Honduras: The Social Construction of Hurricane Mitch

Race, Poverty and Katrina: Craig E. Colten, professor of geography and anthropology at Louisiana State University, says race played a role in the New Orleans' level of preparedness for Hurricane Katrina. >> listen to the interview at NPR

Nomadic Thoughts: More on Katrina and Anthropology

Will Klinger writes:

The dynamics of the entire situation beg for anthropological insight. Overnight the Superdome was transformed into a new society with new rules and new survival tactics. How did they deal with unrest? These are anthropological questions whose answers can serve a purpose. That purpose make become more obvious in the coming weeks and months but it is safe to conclude at this point that by studying how the people affected by the hurricane reacted and acted will be integral to planning for similar future situations.

>> continue


French Quarter survivors are forming "tribes" to survive (BoingBoing)

Katrina Help Wiki / see more Katrina help resources (Dina Mehta) - as always Dina's blog is the best place regarding social tools, see her entry Skype virtual call centre opens web to Katrina refugees

WikiNews: Effect_of_Hurricane_Katrina_on_New_Orleans

Kerim Friedman: Government irresponsibility, race and damage control

American Anthropological Association Responds to Katrina

Blogs on Katrina (Technorati)

Tsunami and Internet: Social Tools - Ripples to Waves of the Future


Abdul Safique: Impact of the super cyclone: myths & realities

"Disasters do not just happen" - The Anthropology of Disaster (2)

New website: Understanding Katrina: Perspectives from the Social Sciences

"Disasters are also a social event": Panel says Katrina disaster has roots in 1700s

Anthropology News October: How Anthropologists Can Respond to Disasters

1 comment

Professor Shahed Hassan

Katrina is not an isolated case. Hurricanes or Typhoons or Cyclones periodically hit Bangladesh and taken away substantive number of lives. Disaster anthropology is an imperative discipline that will address the indigenous perception and prediction indicators. Enhancement of indigenous knowledge will help people living in close contact with nature to become less dependent on modern warning signal system which confuses the people.

18.01.09 @ 15:28

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