This panel explores the intricate socio-cultural and material processes that come to cause different calamities, as well as the capacities, improvisations and resiliences of affected people in dealing with them.
The contemporary world is frequently presented as one of constant crises and ubiquitous disasters. The combined processes of the political-economic developments of inequalities and a natural world increasingly seen as out of control have led to an awareness of growing vulnerabilities. This view resonates well with popular discourses of climate change, disease, economic crisis, political upheaval, violent conflict, peak oil, and unattainable development goals. In-depth anthropological research, however, shows that crises and disasters are situated not only in these global discourses, but also in very specific historical contexts. Political ecological studies, for instance, have shown how vulnerabilities are created by powerful actors, and how environmental risks are unevenly distributed. Fieldwork on local knowledge, moreover, has revealed how affected people develop forecasting mechanisms, coping strategies and adaptive capacities to live with, or in spite of, crises. Attention to the minute details of how a disaster is played out in everyday lives, what it means to the affected people and how they enact it and defy it in its various temporal and spatial dimensions creates a much fuller picture than the one repeatedly broadcasted in the mass media. This panel enables a discussion between various anthropological studies that question the inevitability of crises and disasters. They explore the intricate socio-cultural and material processes that come to cause different calamities, as well as the capacities, improvisations and resiliences of affected people in dealing with them. Thereby, they trace both the everyday-ness of crises and the disastrous-ness of 'normal' life.