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Accepted Paper:

Measuring Social Vulnerability to Disasters through Mixed-Method GIS  

Author:

Valentina Carraro (Pontificia Universidad Catolica)

Paper short abstract:

This contribution reflects on the challenges of developing a methodology integrating ethnographic data into GIS-based maps of social vulnerability to disasters. It focuses on the difficulty in reconciling different epistemologies, and of valuing uncertainty when policy recommendations are at stake.

Paper long abstract:

This contribution reflects on the challenges of developing a methodology that integrates ethnographic data into GIS-based maps of social vulnerability to disasters. In the past decade, disaster risk reduction (DRR) scholars have adopted the concept of social vulnerability, using it to account for how socio-economic inequalities amplify disaster risk. They have developed methodologies to quantify social vulnerability, using GIS to calculate a vulnerability score based on geospatial data. Helpfully, this work has encouraged the incorporation of social variables into disaster risk modelling, but critics challenge its conceptualization of vulnerability as static, simplistic and ultimately disempowering. Meanwhile, although alternative approaches to social vulnerability mapping have emerged from the qualitative social sciences, many remain skeptical as to whether they can produce the kind of generalizable, unambiguous findings that can guide decision-making. My research seeks to develop a methodology to integrate ethnographic data into GIS-based social vulnerability mapping, focusing on the Chilean town of Cartagena as a case study. Drawing on feminist epistemologies, I understand the triangulation of quantitative and ethnographic methods as a strategy to 'refract' different ways of knowing. Specifically, I have conducted 10 interviews with residents, and used GIS and Computer-Aided Qualitative Data Analysis software to code the transcripts and produce 3D 'geo-narrative' maps, building on a technique elaborated by Kwan and Ding. Based on the ongoing research, I highlight two main challenges: the reconciliation of different epistemologies in the analysis, and the difficulty of valuing uncertainty and openness when planning and policy recommendations are at stake.

Panel ME07
Ethnography and GIS