Accepted paper:

Cyclones and the construction of normality in Australia


Hannah Swee (UCL)

Paper short abstract:

By exploring the way that cyclones are lived with as a regular occurrence in Australia, this paper will discuss how active constructions of normality are necessary in order to adapt to living with natural hazards and disasters.

Paper long abstract:

This paper will explore how cyclones are lived with as an annual risk in Far North Queensland, Australia. This region is located in the Australian tropics and has an annual cyclone season between November and April. Natural hazards and disasters are often thought of as being catastrophic one-off events, however, the frequency of cyclones occurring in this region means that they are often perceived as regular events rather than an event that is extraordinary. Normality in this context, although itself a constantly changing concept, needs to be actively constructed and understood. This constructed sense of normality is part of the ongoing process of adaptation which enables people to continue living in this environmentally risky place and influences their choice to live with this risk. Cyclones are socially understood and experienced phenomena, they are interacted with and experienced within a society, and they are interpreted by people in a variety of ways. By using this context of cyclones and building upon other studies that view disasters as socially understood and experienced phenomena, this paper seeks to question current definitions of disasters and to further explore current anthropological theories of disasters. Based on long-term ethnographic research, it argues that disasters need to also be studied as events which continue to influence a society far beyond the initial catastrophe.

panel P095
Living with disasters: hazards, continuity and change