Cultures and Catastrophes - a Theoretical Framework to Evaluate the Social Context of Catastrophes

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 09:45
Location: Hörsaal 4A KS (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Lena BLEDAU, Freie Universität Berlin, Disaster Research Unit (DRU), Germany
Oskar MARG, Freie Universität Berlin, Disaster Research Unit (DRU), Germany
The success of new strategies and technologies for disaster management relies on their ability to function within the existing structures and patterns of social behaviour. Research findings show that many measures to promote disaster preparedness fail due to their lack of alignment with everyday routines. In return, successful existing mitigation structures reveal much about convictions and priorities within a society. It is assumed that a catastrophe never happens in an isolated space or vacuum but rather must be understood in the cultural context in which it happens. Therefore the specific context is most important and must be included in the analysis of catastrophe.

Within this session a framework will be presented that on the one hand allows the evaluation of different cultures and catastrophes. On the other hand the framework allows adjusting the efforts of disaster management organisations and development actors to the given organisational and cultural context. In this way resilience can be fostered and the realization and sustainable usability of the solutions developed by these actors can be facilitated. This framework focuses particularly on climate-imposed hazards and is tested through empirical surveys of past floods in Germany and India. Within this presentation the research findings of the case study in Germany will be presented. Transport infrastructure as a material good for example plays a critical role in the supplying and evacuating of civil populations. Through the Cultures and Catastrophes framework the cultural context can be analyzed in order to help implementing these technological solutions successfully. Overall, the results and insights of this research serve to deepen the understanding of the cultural foundations and operating conditions of the disaster management services in general.

The presented framework of Cultures and Catastrophes is developed within an international joint research project with partners in India and Germany.