The Politics of Natural Disasters

Daniel P. Aldrich

in Political Science

ISBN: 9780199756223
Published online February 2013 | | DOI:
The Politics of Natural Disasters

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People around the world are far more likely to encounter death or harm because of mudslides, collapsed buildings, and flooding than front-page issues such as terrorism, riots, or insurgency. In response to the range of natural hazards, researchers of the politics of disasters have studied how individuals, communities, and states prepare for, respond to, and recover from catastrophes and crises. While some have defined disasters as events that cause one hundred human deaths or injuries or $1 million in damage, they are more broadly understood as calamities that interrupt the routines of normal life and politics and cause widespread health and livelihood consequences. This working definition separates fender benders from citywide flooding, but moving to further distinguish between “natural” and “man-made” disasters becomes quite difficult as political and social choices magnify the effect of these events, especially in the contexts of increasing urbanization and anthropogenic climate change (see the Natural, Man-made, and Natural/Technological Disasters section for more on this theme). Due to the broad effects of floods, tsunami, hurricanes, famines, earthquakes, and fires, scholars from all disciplines have written a tremendous amount on the issue. Writings on disaster and recovery date back to the earliest recorded history, including the biblical story of a great deluge and the Sumerian narrative of Gilgamesh, and continue through the enlightenment with Voltaire’s writings on the November 1755 Portugal earthquake and tsunami that destroyed much of Lisbon. Political scientists, sociologists, geographers, anthropologists, economists, and historians have studied disaster recovery, best practices in disaster response, the role of the government in rebuilding, and so forth. This annotated bibliography illuminates representative examples of the interdisciplinary work in this vast academic subfield. Most of the work selected for inclusion comes from the end of the 20th century and the early 21st century, but it builds on the work of scholars such as Samuel Prince, who wrote about the 1917 Halifax harbor explosion three years later, and on mid-1950s and 1960s work sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences.

Article.  11036 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Comparative Politics ; Political Institutions ; Political Methodology ; Political Theory

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