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Katharina Seebaß

Ongoing climate change has led to an increase in extreme temperatures, which influence both the environment and human beings. However, not everyone is affected by heat stress to the same degree. This article analyzes who is affected by subjective heat stress. Individual and social indicators of vulnerability and exposure—mediated by conditions of housing and living environments—are considered simultaneously, from the sociological perspective of social inequality influences. Using local data from an empirical survey in Nuremberg, Germany, the article shows that age, individual health, and social contexts all explain variations in how people experience heat stress. It is further hypothesized and confirmed that heat exposure due to disadvantaged housing conditions or distance from green space increases the levels of subjective heat stress. When looking at differences in levels of subjective heat stress, the consideration of heat exposure due to social vulnerability and socioeconomic reasons offers some explanations.

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Climate Changing Small Islands

Considering Social Science and the Production of Island Vulnerability and Opportunity

Amelia Moore

This article argues that climate change has influenced the way in which small island nations are viewed and understood by the international climate community. Climate change has become an internationally recognized and specific language of vulnerability that is deployed in requests for international aid to fund adaptation and mitigation measures in some small islands, for population relocation plans and human rights advocacy in other islands, and for overhauling the 'tourism product' and creating new markets for travel in others. Vulnerability is a powerful idiom, especially in the contemporary climate context that has come to imply crisis, change, uncertainty, and immediacy. Importantly, vulnerability also gestures unambiguously toward seemingly limitless scientific and even commercial opportunity. These developments come with new forms of expertise in the natural and social sciences and the travel industry, as well as with new or reinstated forms of inequity. As the areas of small island expertise increasingly overlap, they come to reproduce the very context and form of small islands themselves.

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Md Saidul Islam and Si Hui Lim

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.

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Editorial

Screening Vulnerability

Brian Bergen-Aurand

About the time I first encountered Robert McRuer’s Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability soon after its publication in 2006, I began to turn my research and teaching from queer theory toward disability studies and crip theory. Or, it might be more accurate to say that crip theory and disability studies began to infect my previous work in queer theory and dis-ease its trajectory. Rather than focus on carnality and desire as much as I once had, I began focusing on corporeality and vulnerability—what Emmanuel Levinas (2006: 64) describes as the radical passivity of being “for the other” without ever desiring such a responsibility, without having either force or intention, something I experience despite myself. Vulnerability, especially rather than capability or ability—with their links to energy, strength, power, and vitality—began to hold a more central place in my research and critical thought. I began rethinking what bodies do and what they do to us when we experience them, especially through screens.

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Nirmala Erevelles and Xuan Thuy Nguyen

When we first proposed this special issue on “Disability and Girlhood: Transnational Perspectives,” we had not yet realized how the urgency in the global humanitarian crises that has escalated in intensity and scope of violence in recent months would demand our thoughtful attention. These crises, the outcomes of social protest, wars, and genocidal acts in many parts of the world for over a decade, punctuated by the Paris bombings of November 2015 that took the lives of 130 innocent citizens; the widespread displacement of 4 million Syrian refugees from their homeland; the increased militarization at the borders of the European Union and the United States; and the environmental impact of this war of terror on the daily survival of disabled and non-disabled people around the globe continue unabated. On the internet, photographic images of women and children with disabilities (and girls in particular) serve as the very embodiment of vulnerability in competition with thousands of other images of suffering (see for instance, Human Rights Watch 2012) vying for the attention of an impatient and fickle global audience (Goggin 2009; Kim 2011). In these images, disability, seen to be synonymous with vulnerability becomes simultaneously hypervisible in its ability to trigger an affective response and hyper-invisible when inspiring an emancipatory response to the material consequences of actually living with a disability.

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Victoria C. Ramenzoni and David Yoskowitz

After Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, governmental organizations have placed the development of metrics to quantify social impacts, resilience, and community adaptation at the center of their agendas. Following the premise that social indicators provide valuable information to help decision makers address complex interactions between people and the environment, several interagency groups in the United States have undertaken the task of embedding social metrics into policy and management. While this task has illuminated important opportunities for consolidating social and behavioral disciplines at the core of the federal government, there are still significant risks and challenges as quantification approaches move forward. In this article, we discuss the major rationale underpinning these efforts, as well as the limitations and conflicts encountered in transitioning research to policy and application. We draw from a comprehensive literature review to explore major initiatives in institutional scenarios addressing community well-being, vulnerability, and resilience in coastal and ocean resource management agencies.

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Virginia García-Acosta

*Full article is in French

English abstract: The concept of “social construction“ associated with risks has proved to be an increasingly useful analytical tool among disaster experts. However, as is natural with the creation and evolution of theoretical concepts to explain reality, it has acquired different meanings. This, in some cases, has generated some confusion in its use. This paper attempts to clarify some of the variations of the concept “social construction of risk“ by studying and reviewing its main usages and contents. In particular, it looks at the concept's association with perception and with vulnerability. It is basically a theoretical essay intended to help scholars who study disasters so they can use more fluently one of the concepts that will allow them to better comprehend the object of their studies.

Spanish abstract: El concepto de “construcción social“ asociado con los riesgos ha demostrado una utilidad analítica cada vez mayor entre los estudiosos de los desastres. Sin embargo, como es natural que ocurra en la generación y evolución de planteamientos teóricos para la interpretación de la realidad, se le han atribuido significados diversos. Lo anterior ha contribuido en algunos casos a confusiones en su utilización. Este ensayo pretende contribuir a esclarecer algunas de las variaciones en el uso del concepto “construcción social del riesgo“ por medio del estudio y revisión de los principales manejos y contenidos que se le han dado, particularmente dos de ellos: el que lo asocia con la percepción y el que lo hace con la vulnerabilidad. Se trata de un ensayo básicamente de corte teórico, cuyo objetivo último es aportar elementos para que los estudiosos de los desastres puedan disponer con mayor fluidez de uno de los conceptos que permitan comprender el objeto de su estudio con más destreza.

French abstract: Le concept de « construction sociale » associé aux risques a démontré une utilité grandissante en tant qu'outil d'analyse pour les spécialistes qui étudient les catastrophes. Toutefois, comme c'est le cas de tout processus naturel de création et de développement des approches théoriques qui servent à l'interprétation de la réalité, des significations diverses ont été données à ce concept. Ce e diversité a contribué dans certains cas à créer des confusions dans son utilisation. Le présent article éclaircit des variations du concept de construction sociale du risque par l'étude et la révision des principaux usages et contenus qui lui ont été donnés, dont deux en particulier : celui qui l'associe à la perception, et celui qui l'associe à la vulnérabilité. Cet essai a comme objectif d'offrir une réflexion de nature théorique sur l'utilisation d'un des concepts fréquemment utilisés par ceux qui s'adonnent à l'étude des catastrophes.

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The Biologically Vulnerable Boy

Framing Sex Differences in Childhood Infectious Disease Mortality

Heather T. Battles

Demographers have noticed longer adult female life expectancies and higher rates of male infant mortality in Europe as early as the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. During the Western demographic and epidemiologic transition of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, infant and childhood mortality rates became increasingly male-skewed. I examine the changing awareness and understanding of sex differentials in childhood infectious disease mortality and the discourse surrounding them in the medical and epidemiological literature, with particular focus on discussions surrounding diphtheria. I identify the emergence of the concept of males as the weaker sex (the “biological hypothesis”) and the framing of boys as biologically vulnerable, and argue that these are products of this historical period, linked not only to observed epidemiological patterns but also to changing ideas of children and childhood and the shift in science and medicine toward the laboratory as the source of knowledge.

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Changes in the Weather

A Sri Lankan Village Case Study

Mariella Marzano

As the impacts of climate change are expected to increase, there is growing concern in development contexts over how best to assist the poor and vulnerable to adapt to such changes whilst ensuring environmental and livelihood security. Climate variability is a persistent and progressively more worrying feature in the everyday lives of individuals and communities in rural areas around the world and there is a pressing need for comprehensive knowledge of the complex relationships between humans, and between them and their environment. Thus there is a growing movement towards bridging the gap between top-down decision-making and more grassroots approaches that encompass local knowledge and experiences. Drawing upon fieldwork in Sri Lanka, this article examines the potential of taking an indigenous knowledge research (IKR) approach to understanding local adaptation to climate change, specifically how local people are adapting their livelihood strategies to what they perceive to be increasing variability in weather patterns. It also explores the prospect of indigenous knowledge networks as vehicles for rapidly sharing information and building links between policy making and local reality.

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Elina Oinas

In this article I explore the concept of the rebellious girl by examining the cases of three different girls: an HIV activist in South Africa; a young feminist in Finland; and a topless on-line protester in post-revolution Tunisia. Although their contexts and messages vary greatly, there are marked similarities between and amongst them. I suggest that, in general, the media, political movements, and research agendas often appear to have difficulty taking girls' protests seriously. The rebellious girl is ridiculed, shunned, shamed, and disciplined. The protests explored here can, however, be read as important visual interruptions that attempt to invoke an epistemic mutiny that does not beg for inclusion on preexisting terms but, rather, challenges the boundaries of acceptable bodily integrity. They also gesture towards the social in a way that demands recognition, acceptance, and support, not a simplified acceptance based on the notion of neoliberal individual freedom.