Accepted paper:

The Anthropology of Disaster Resilience: Phenomenology, Poetics of Place, and the Value of the Humanistic Tradition

Author:

Meredith Feike (Tulane University)

Paper short abstract:

Anthropology and the social sciences provide a humanistic framework for understanding the complex dynamics of disasters. The inclusive character of the philosophy of resilience allows scientists the opportunity to enhance the coping capacity and livelihoods of communities experiencing disaster related hardships.

Paper long abstract:

Anthropology and the social sciences provide a humanistic framework for understanding the complex dynamics of natural, technological, and social disasters. Phenomenology is an approach that examines lived experience, focusing on humanity's ordinary everyday engagement with the world. Phenomenologists seek to uncover the essence of a "place" by letting the landscape reveal itself, listening to all of the values and beliefs that are embedded in its symbolism. Our connection to place transforms the natural environment, making human perception, underlying values and attitudes toward place, essential components of a more holistic anthropological knowledge. Offering a novel way of conceptualizing disasters and their effects, the inclusive character of the philosophy of resilience allows scientists the opportunity to enhance the coping capacity and livelihoods of communities experiencing disaster related hardships. Community resilience is a process dependent on the collective behavior of residents who become social agents for redevelopment in the face of adversity. The landscape can reveal its stories, or text, in a way that lets one participate in the reality of the disaster area. The needs of each environment vary according to their degree of vulnerability, which can only be accessed through a careful evaluation of the underlying meanings that its inhabitants have assigned it. The resilience and sustainability of each environment must be judged according to its own unique nature symbolized by the values, perception, and attitudes inherent in the cultural milieu of the population interacting with it on an everyday basis.

panel G16
Towards an anthropology of sustainability?