Accepted Paper:

has pdf download Avalanches and the produce of the ordinary: traditions of disaster in the central Alpine region  


Jan Hinrichsen (University of Innsbruck)
Reinhard Johler (University Tuebingen)

Paper short abstract:

Avalanches pose a constant threat to alpine communities, and therefore, they are a potent means to outline social orders as well as to negotiate them. How do those communities manage to cope with this threat and how do they incorporate natural disasters into their everyday life?

Paper long abstract:

While social orders, established in human action and knowledge, help establish reliabilities, put into place patterns of signification and experience, those very reliabilities become disputable and uncertain in the face of disaster.

However, as a result of disasters, social orders are often restructured, yet rarely extinguished: they continue to be. Furthermore, alpine communities face disaster not as a singular event, but are subject to enduring and permanent threat by natural catastrophes: avalanches are a quasi-common thing.

Based on the project "Avalanches as a threat to social orders" of Tuebingens Collaborative Research Center "Threatend Orders", our paper inquires how Alpine communities cope with avalanches. It presents in detail how by means of religious, cultural and technological forms of protection, disasters are integrated and incorporated into daily life, and, in the long run, become a part of the ordinary experience. The paper analyses "traditions of disaster": routines of disaster communication, structures of reactions, and patterns of remembrance and neglect - all of which help to re-stabilize, reshape and establish social orders.

Hence, a central question must be: Taken that disasters can be integrated into the everyday life experience and serve as both a pattern for future catastrophes and as a specific order with stabilizing effects, what, then, remains catastrophic about a catastrophe? The experience of disastrous events follows a twofold but simultaneous produce: In as much as the ordinary has to be produced in the face of crisis, the catastrophic has to be brought about in the face of the ordinary.

Panel W039
Producing the ordinary in the face of crisis