ISA World Congress of Sociology, Yokohama, Japan, July 2014

Research Committee on
Sociology of Disasters, RC39

RC39 main page

Program Coordinators

Number of allocated sessions including Business Meeting: 18.


Planned sessions and dates/time subject to further changes

in alphabetical order:


Monday, July 14, 2014: 3:30 PM - 5:20 PM

Adapting to Climate Change: New Ideas and Voices

Session Organizer
Ashutosh MOHANTY, Centre for Environment and Economic Development, India,

Session in English

Throughout the world, the early signs of dangerous climate variability are already threatening the lives, livelihoods, and health of billions, especially the poorest and most socially vulnerable. Future changes in precipitation, sea level, glacial cover, and incidence of extreme events are expected to affect food security, nutrition, and availability of water, sanitation, shelter, health, labor productivity, productive sectors, and household incomes.

The objective of this session is to increase understanding of the factors, barriers, and drivers that condition social adaptation to climate change. In particular, papers will be included that, among other topics, focus on innovative climate change adaptation strategies that 1) promote learning and innovation, 2) reduce social inequality, and/or 3) measure and assess changes in health, education, and social protection policies. Authors are also encouraged to consider the transferability of findings across various geographic and social contexts.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 03:30 PM - 05:20 PM

Cities as Socio-Ecological Places: Global Risks and Local Vulnerabilities

Session Organizer
Andrea LAMPIS, National University of Colombia, Colombia,

Session in English

The intertwining dynamic between the effects of Global Environmental Change (GEC), Climate Change (CC), and the capacity of cities to adapt, is a growing area of concern for the international scientific and policy community. While it is straightforward to conceptualize the central role of city-level institutions for the successful realization of adaptation policies, this is not the case regarding what may foster adaptation capacity according to varying institutional and social geographies. The production of risk and the determinants of vulnerability are not only environmental but also have an economic, political, and cultural dimension. As climate change is producing unprecedented patterns of environmental and socio-ecological transformations, international sociological and cross-disciplinary evidence is still patched and not informed by solid conceptual frameworks capable of tackling the perspective proposed by the natural sciences.

The session seeks papers reflecting on the conceptualization of cities as socio-ecological places; urban disasters and ecological dependence; the materialization of risk society: disasters, risk and vulnerability in contemporary urban settlements; planning, land-use and prevention: usefulness and limitations of technical approaches in the face of socio-ecological risks; cultural dynamics and perceptions in the face of urban ecological risks and vulnerability.


Monday, July 14, 2014: 5:30 PM - 7:20 PM

Cultural Preservation, Memory, and Restoration in Disaster Contexts

Session Organizer
William LOVEKAMP, Eastern Illinois University, USA,

Session in English

This session will explore the ways that communities can be prepared for and recover from disasters by preserving the cultural heritage, historic record, landmarks, and other important elements of community. This session also examines the importance of collective memory in disasters, such as how collective memory of events can shape future mitigation and preparedness, the importance of memorializing after disasters, and the importance of remembering as an element of community identity.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 05:30 PM - 07:20 PM

Disaster and Development Discourses, Policies, and Practices

Session Organizers
Andrew E. COLLINS, Northumbria University, United Kingdom,
Hirokazu TATANO, Kyoto University, Japan,
Norio OKADA, Kwansei University, Japan,

Session in English

Disaster and development discourses of the last two decades have tended to converge around matters of sustainability, risk, resilience, adaptation, and poverty reduction. Less attention has been paid, however, to the implications of this convergent thinking for researching issues of prediction, precaution, and hope in human survival. There is a need to understand the systems of meaning that underlie disaster and development thinking. This work should be engaged cross-culturally and in relation to the emergent institutions of the future. How also might the conceptualization of disaster and development get reflected back through policies and practices of a growing disaster reduction or sustainable development industry?

This session aims to bring together a number of contributions that address theoretical, methodological, and sector based interpretations addressing disaster in development and vice versa. The session is timely as we reconsider complex disaster events in terms of varying development trajectories. This extends to looking anew at accompanying global strategies that would anticipate, take better care of, and motivate people who struggle with local realities stemming from global change. The session is hosted by the Japan-UK Disaster Risk Reduction Study Programme and is open to inputs from any part of the world.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 03:30 PM - 05:20 PM

Disaster Capitalism: Exploring the Political Economy of Disaster

Session Organizer
Lee MILLER, Sam Houston State University, USA,

Session in English

Political and economic systems provide the contexts in which disasters occur. These systems create or lessen economic, political, and social inequalities thereby influencing vulnerabilities and exposure to risk. Furthermore, resources are managed and distributed in preparation for, and in response to, disasters differently according to political and economic pressures. Efforts to mitigate risks and consequences of disasters are also emphasized or overlooked depending on political will and economic priorities.

Since economic and political contexts accentuate or diminish vulnerabilities to, and consequences of, disasters, disaster scholars are exploring the interrelationships between economics, politics, and disasters. For example, the concept of “disaster capitalism” points to the ways disasters can be leveraged for large economic gains, usually by economic and political elites that result in heightened economic inequalities and increased exploitation of disenfranchised groups. However, the long-term effects of disaster capitalism on vulnerability and risk are under researched. Therefore, in terms of preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation, the political economy of disaster offers compelling new directions for disaster research. Research from diverse economic and political contexts will examine these themes from a range of international and comparative perspectives.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 10:30 AM - 12:20 PM

Disaster Vulnerability, Resilience Building, and Social Marginality

Session Organizers
Margarethe KUSENBACH, University of South Florida, USA,
Gabriela CHRISTMANN, Leibniz Institute for Regional Development and Structural Planning, Germany,

Session in English

The session welcomes papers investigating conceptual and empirical aspects of both vulnerability and resilience to disasters and social crises at the social margins; among urban or rural poor communities, ethnic and racial minorities, immigrants and non-citizens, the elderly, persons with disabilities, and/or other disadvantaged groups, in all regions of the world. We invite empirical studies of how – considering their structural, cultural, and situational constraints –marginalized groups perceive hazards, social crises, and their own vulnerability. How do they prepare for, and deal with, specific emergencies and disaster contexts? And how do they build resilience?

We also welcome theoretical submissions that critically examine current definitions of vulnerability and resilience, and that show awareness of the fact that resilience building of one social group might increase the vulnerability of others. Further, given their growing use outside of disaster studies, what can these concepts contribute toward the study of social problems and social inequality more generally? And what is their value for understanding conditions and processes of social inequality? Whether theoretical or empirical, we hope that papers in this session will contribute ideas and strategies toward improving education, reducing individual or collective risk, encouraging collaborative governance of preparedness, and informing social policy regarding disasters, social crises, and social problems in the future.


Thursday, July 17, 2014: 05:30 PM - 07:20 PM

Disaster Warnings

Session Organizer
Michael LINDELL, Texas A&M University, USA,

Session in English

This session will address issues associated with warning sources (e.g., authorities, news media, and peers), warning channels (e.g., broadcast, print, Internet), and message content (e.g., threat, responses by authorities, recommended household protective actions). The session will also examine differences among warning recipients in their perceptions of warning sources, channel access and preferences, cognitive processing of message content, and responses (e.g., information seeking, protective response, and emotion-focused coping).


Friday, July 18, 2014: 05:30 PM - 07:20 PM

Disasters and Politics

Session Organizer
Benigno AGUIRRE, University of Delaware, USA,

Session in English

The session will delve into the reciprocal, complex relationships that exist between political systems and disasters. It will accept manuscripts that explore these relationships and that will give answers to the following types of questions:


Monday, July 14, 2014: 10:30 AM - 12:20 PM

From Disaster to Lessons Learned: Citizen Resilience and Government Accountability in the Aftermath of Disasters

Session Organizer
DeMond MILLER, Rowan University, USA,

Session in English

Oftentimes it is assumed that we learn from the disasters of the past as a way to prevent disasters from occurring in the future. Following a disaster, a heightened awareness of problems and potential solutions may lead to a false sense of security leaving citizens to think that local and national governments are ready for the next catastrophic event. Many humanitarian and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), governments and policy makers often invoke the “lessons learned” stance as a way to assure the public that catastrophic events (e.g. flooding of New Orleans in Hurricane Katrina or the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster) will not occur again.

This session has a threefold purpose: 1) understand how citizens interact with government and non-governmental agencies to use information to become more resilient and less vulnerable to the next disaster; 2) view the role and responsibilities of governments; and 3) foster a dialogue regarding how disaster research can inform processes, policy makers, the broader public’s understanding of disasters, disaster policy, and disaster rebuilding policy.


Friday, July 18, 2014: 08:30 AM - 10:20 AM

Learning from History: Research into Past Disasters

Session Organizer
Joseph SCANLON, Carleton University, Canada,

Session in English

Thanks to seminal work from researchers at the Disaster Research Center, the Natural Hazards Center, and the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI), among others, there has been a great deal of research into incidents right after they happened. But there has been little attempt – with a few notable exceptions – to delve into historical records to learn about past disasters. This session will include papers about any and all aspects of disaster history. Authors will be encouraged to mention what light their historical research casts on current findings about human and organizational behavior in disaster.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 10:30 AM - 12:20 PM

Lessons Learned through Assessing Disaster Preparedness, Response, Recovery, and Mitigation

Session Organizer
Dana M. GREENE, University of North Carolina, USA,

Session in English

This session is broadly conceived as a comparative analysis between lessons learned from previous natural, technological, and intentional human-caused disasters and what remains to be learned. Given the recent occurrence of these types of events worldwide, papers should focus on past natural or technological disasters as well as emergent threats (e.g., school shootings, terrorism, etc.).

This session will address questions and concerns related to the applied sociology of disasters; namely, where do we go from here, and how do we navigate a new normal in the post-disaster milieu. Papers included in this session should address specific issues in disaster preparedness, response, recovery, and/or mitigation in international context, while also offering recommendations for researchers and practitioners.


Friday, July 18, 2014: 03:30 PM - 05:20 PM

Looking for Relief: Humanitarian Aid and Volunteerism in the Aftermath of Disaster

Session Organizer
Tricia WACHTENDORF, University of Delaware, USA,

Session in English

This will examine the challenges of providing human assistance and humanitarian aid in the aftermath of disaster. Aid and assistance typically flows from a combination of formal and informal sources, and through activity that combines established and emergent mechanisms. The success of these efforts varies considerably, sometimes with long-term implications on development efforts underway prior to the disaster event. The ways in which assistance is provided may be tightly connected to social, political, economic, and cultural factors. Papers may consider such topics as organizational coordination, convergence, ethical concerns in relief provision, volunteer activity, cultural appropriateness of giving, and the role of news and social media in generating relief, among other areas.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 07:30 PM - 08:50 PM

RC39 Business Meeting

Session Organizer
Walt PEACOCK, Texas A&M University, USA,


Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 08:30 AM - 10:20 AM

Sociolegal Studies and Disaster: The Challenges of Regulation

Session Organizer
Susan STERETT, National Science Foundation, USA,

Session in English

Recent disasters have brought to the fore the importance of regulatory and compensatory frameworks and how each is mobilized both domestically and internationally. These issues directly implicate the conference theme concerning inequality: the unequal distribution of risk and the ineffectiveness of legal response can be amplified by inequality in mobilizing the law on one’s own behalf.

This invited panel will bring sociological insights to concerns about limits to the legal regulation safety and compensation for loss through legal processes. It will include an analysis of the IAEA, the international body responsible for nuclear power regulation, as a reputation-seeking organization, and why that might imply limits to the effectiveness of safety regulation. Despite both international and domestic regulation, we can expect disasters to occur, turning us to response and compensation. The remaining papers will address disaster response and compensation, focusing on Thailand and Japan after the 2011 disasters. Panelists will address how lawyers and legal rules have or have not facilitated compensation in Japan, and why changes in law did not make for better response to the 2011 flood in Thailand.


Thursday, July 17, 2014: 10:30 AM - 12:20 PM

The Impact of Disasters on Culture, Livelihood, and Material Goods

Session Organizers
Michele COMPANION, University of Colorado, USA,
Susann ULLBERG, Swedish National Defence College, Sweden,

Session in English

Disasters have an immediate and long-term impact on communities. They provide unanticipated opportunities for growth and adaptation, mitigation of threat to livelihood or cultural survival, or, at times, may result in community collapse. Disruption to life-ways also alters the relationship between people and the material objects used for economic exchange, religious and spiritual life, replication of cultural identity, artistic expression, and memory. This session seeks to explore processes of cultural change and continuity of communities in the face of disasters and what role material goods play in these processes. We welcome research from any point in a disaster event (before, during, or after) and from disaster situations world-wide.


Friday, July 18, 2014: 10:30 AM - 12:20 PM

What a Gender Lens Brings to Disaster Studies: Case Studies from Japan and Beyond

Session Organizers
Shelley PACHOLOK, University of British Columbia, Canada,

Session in English

Scientists predict that climate change, rapid urbanization and development, increasing population, growing wealth divides, environmental degradation, and neoliberal policy reforms will increase the frequency and intensity of disasters as well as their human and economic costs. In this context of change, uncertainty, and heightened risk new insights generated by Japan’s growing body of research on the vulnerability and resilience of women and men, boys and girls are particularly relevant for gender-focused disaster studies.

This panel is an opportunity for Japanese researchers to share their findings from recent disasters and to engage with international gender and disaster researchers. Other panelists are invited to share findings from case studies in different regions. Each paper will address the significance of a dynamic hazard environment for gender relations in the context of preparedness, impact, response, and recovery. Speakers will be invited to give special attention to intersections with sexual identity, age, social class, and region, and to consider what can be learned about sustainable recovery from gender focused research.


Joint Sessions

Click on the session title to read its description and the scheduled day/time.

Disasters and Families and Children: Coping Strategies and Recovering Efforts

Joint session of RC06 Family Research and RC39 Sociology of Disasters [host committee]


Disasters and Families and Children: Coping Strategies and Recovering Efforts

Joint session of RC06 Family Research and RC39 Sociology of Disasters [host committee]


Families Responses to Natural and Human-Made Disasters

Joint session of RC06 Family Research [host committee] and RC39 Sociology of Disasters


Gender, Violence, and Disaster: Research and Action

Joint session of RC32 Women in Society [host committee] and RC39 Sociology of Disasters


Organizations and Disasters

Joint session of RC17 Sociology of Organizations and RC39 Sociology of Disasters [host committee]



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