Home to 60 percent of the world's population, Asia accounts for 85 percent of those killed and affected globally by disaster events in 2011. Using an integrated sociological framework comprised of the pressure and release (PAR) model and the double-risk society hypothesis, and drawing on data obtained from the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT), PreventionWeb, and the IPCC special report on extreme events, this article offers a sociological understanding of disaster development and recovery in Asia. The particular focus is on seven Asian countries, namely, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Rather than treating disasters entirely as “natural” events caused by “violent forces of nature”, we emphasize various ways in which social systems create disaster vulnerability. We argue that existing disaster mitigation and adaptation strategies in Asia that focus almost entirely on the natural and technological aspects of hazards have serious limitations, as they ignore the root causes of disaster vulnerabilities, such as limited access to power and resources. This article therefore recommends a holistic approach to disaster management and mitigation that takes into consideration the various larger social, political, and economic conditions and contexts.
Md Saidul Islam and Si Hui Lim
Renata Volich Eisenbruch
A practicing psychoanalyst and clinical psychologist, the author offers a psychoanalytical perspective on psychic illness within a contrastive framework of twentieth-century Western psychiatric and psycho- analytic outlooks on mental health. Drawing on Jaspers's exemplary discussion of the differences between psychiatric and phenomenological-interpretative approaches to psychopathology, the author applies it to her exegesis of the Lacanian conceptions of the human unconscious, the dynamics of symptom formation, as well as the significance of mental malady for understanding the structure of the human subject. As different forms of psychopathology express themselves in social phenomena, the author advocates a wider application of psychoanalytic ethnography or applied psychoanalysis to help subjects deal with natural disasters, personal crises, and everyday life. Taking into account the adversities that affect individuals and societies and the diversity of contexts, the dynamic process of applied psychoanalysis can make contributions toward achieving vital understanding.
An explosion in a war zone, no matter how localized and remote to the rest of the world, constitutes a crisis that has dangerous global repercussions. Using Alain Badiou's philosophy of multiplicities to track these repercussions, this article explores international profiteering and extra-legal commodities transfers; forced labor and enforced inequalities; dereliction in providing social, civil, and humanitarian services; and institutionalized injustices that coalesce in war and radiate worldwide. While the politics and economics of these systems of inequality seem to confer power on those who control them (generally, cosmopolitan industrial centers), this article suggests these are loci of vulnerability—`fracture zones'—that, under pressure (e.g., conflict, market crashes, natural disasters), leave even peacetime countries susceptible to collapse.
Culture, Communication and Computers Applied to a Real World Problem
Stephen M. Lyon and Michael Fischer
Displacement following natural disasters brings about both short- and long-term issues that urban planners must address. While we recognize that many (though not all) aspects of the short-term plans may not require extensive anthropological insights, the long-term plans, on the contrary, do. We suggest in this article that one of the most important contributions anthropologists can make is producing formal models of indigenous knowledge systems (which are derived from underlying cultural systems) and identifying the ways in which such systems are communicated. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach which borrows from developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and multi-agent modelling (MAM), we argue that many of the tools that such disciplines have produced can serve an important role in long-range planning for the coexistence of disparate communities if they are adequately informed by anthropological understandings of the communities involved. We briefly outline the anthropology of communication and the culture concept before turning our attention to something that AI and MAM researchers have dubbed ontologies to suggest that it is possible to model cultural systems in dynamic ways that enable sociocultural models of communities which are simultaneously resilient and robust. We give a concrete example of such a cultural system (izzat or 'honour' in South Asia) and demonstrate what an ontology of such a system might look like.
'How Will the World End?'
This article explores late Victorian fictions of natural catastrophe and their relationship to contemporary developments in the natural sciences. During this era, popular culture had become saturated with an 'apocalyptic imaginary' – a myriad of images of degeneration, total war and the fall of civilisation. While the majority of popular catastrophe texts turn on disasters of a man-made, military nature, including global wars, nationalist uprisings, and domestic revolutions, a significant subset employ natural disaster as the means of catastrophe – some dramatising the astronomical theories of cometary collision or the heat death of the sun, and others postulating meteorological and geological disasters such as volcanic eruption, earthquake, fog, ice, flood, and even climate change. These include H.G. Wells and George Griffith's tales of comet strike, M.P. Shiel and Grant Allen's volcano tales, and William Delisle Hay, Robert Barr and Fred M. White's accounts of deadly fog. This article relates this little-known body of texts to developing Victorian concerns about the sustainability of human life on earth, arguing that by focusing on determining the causes of the catastrophes depicted it is possible to see links emerging between 'natural' catastrophe and human activity in Victorian thinking and hence the development of an ecological awareness.
If one practical way to define trauma is to consider it as a chronic inability to access and process catastrophic events, that is, as a systematic and haunting blockage of memory formation and reclamation of past experiences, then historians have an inherent stake in the concept. This basic observation is not new, of course, but until now only historians of the Holocaust have evinced serious and consistent interest in the vast literature on Trauma Studies. Most historians—for example those who work with the distant past, with non-Western societies, or with less extreme historical events—have not had to engage with the historical implications of trauma. In as much as historians use the term, they do so from the lay standpoint that considers trauma as a horrible and tragic man-made event or a natural disaster. In its popular and very elastic usage the event (trauma) and its consequences (always “traumatic”) run the risk of remaining unexplored and largely unexplained, and thus, paradoxically, actually traumatic in the sense of not allowing access to the past. While remaining cognizant of the bland usage of the concept of trauma, the goal of this special issue is to offer a modest commentary on what Trauma Studies can offer to “Other Historians” and, perhaps, on what they can offer in return. The work presented here is of a provisional nature and is the product of a year-long seminar by a diverse group of historians at the Institute of Historical Studies at the University of Texas at Austin and the international conference, “Trauma and History,” that they organized.