Invented Communities and Social Vulnerability. the Post-Disasters Dynamics of Extreme Events

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 11:15
Location: Hörsaal BIG 2 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Rolf LIDSKOG, Department of sociology, Environmental Sociology Section, Örebro, Sweden
A current challenge around the world is to decrease vulnerability and increase the robustness of societies in order to minimize the adverse effects of climate-related extreme events. Experience of extreme events can be used to reduce the vulnerability by developing capacities to handle extreme events. Thus, even if extreme events cannot be fully prevented or even predicted, it is possible to develop more robust systems. This paper focuses on the social dynamics of disasters on local level; what happens with local identity and social cohesion after experienced extreme events? Which spatial ontology – in terms of local identity and geographical belongings – are constructed, through which processes is it constructed and with what implications with regard to social vulnerability? The empirical object of this study is the largest forest fire in Swedish history, which took place in August 2014 and involved 2,300 person to fight the fire and evacuate people. The empirical material consists of two interview studies, of forest professionals involved in managing the forest fire or its aftermath (N=10) and of stakeholders (eg. forest owners, residents, environmental organisations, insurance companies) (N=19), and a postal surveys to all property owners (land owners, permanent residents, summer cottagers, N=1000) in the area affected by the fire. The analysis finds that a specific local community where invented, in the sense that earlier conflicts where down-played and blame was externalised leading to the shaping a shared identity and unified experiences. This identity increased the community’s capacity to handle the post-fire situation. At the same time, this homogenisation of experience and polished affinity implied a suppression of differences and dissimilarities that existed in the community. Thus, the post-disaster dynamics are pivotal for which social practices that emerges and which local identity that are invened, which greatly affect the social vulnerability of a community.