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Rethinking the nature of disaster: From failed instruments of learning to a post-social understanding


Williams, S, Rethinking the nature of disaster: From failed instruments of learning to a post-social understanding, Social Forces, 87, (2) pp. 1115-1138. ISSN 0037-7732 (2008) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2008 The University of North Caroline Press

DOI: doi:10.1353/sof.0.0146


Recent disasters have been of such scale and complexity that both the common assumptions made about learning from them, and the traditional approaches distinguishing natural from technological disasters (and now terrorism) are thus challenged. Beck’s risk thesis likewise signals the need for a paradigmatic change. Despite sociological inflections in disaster research and management, however, an examination of the risk management practices deployed during Hurricane Katrina and the Indian Ocean tsunami reveals attendant problems with a persistent instrumental rationality and disjuncture between society and environment. Therefore, an alternative, post-social understanding is proposed. It includes relational (rather than instrumental) approaches which reinstate the importance of nonhuman nature, but it also recognizes that disasters are postnormal problems, and that disaster research and management increasingly deal with phenomena beyond the limits of current know-how.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Hurricane Katrina; Natural hazards; Nonhuman nature; Risk; Post-social theory; Tsunami; Uncertainty
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Sociology
Research Field:Environmental sociology
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Natural hazards
Objective Field:Natural hazards not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Williams, S (Dr Stewart Williams)
ID Code:54269
Year Published:2008
Web of Science® Times Cited:27
Deposited By:Geography and Environmental Studies
Deposited On:2009-02-16
Last Modified:2015-01-30

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