Learning and Calamities: Practices, Interpretations, Patterns, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Learning and Calamities

Practices, Interpretations, Patterns, 1st Edition

Edited by Heike Egner, Marén Schorch, Martin Voss


314 pages | 17 B/W Illus.

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It is widely assumed that humanity should be able to learn from calamities (e.g., emergencies, disasters, catastrophes) and that the affected individuals, groups, and enterprises, as well as the concerned (disaster-) management organizations and institutions for prevention and mitigation, will be able to be better prepared or more efficient next time. Furthermore, it is often assumed that the results of these learning processes are preserved as "knowledge" in the collective memory of a society, and that patterns of practices were adopted on this base. Within history, there is more evidence for the opposite: Analyzing past calamities reveals that there is hardly any learning and, if so, that it rarely lasts more than one or two generations. This book explores whether learning in the context of calamities happens at all, and if learning takes place, under which conditions it can be achieved and what would be required to ensure that learned cognitive and practical knowledge will endure on a societal level. The contributions of this book include various fields of scientific research: history, sociology, geography, psychoanalysis, psychiatry, development studies and political studies, as well as disaster research and disaster risk reduction research.

Table of Contents

Foreword Kathleen Tierney. Acknowledgments. 1. Introduction: Can Societies Learn from Calamities? Heike Egner, Marén Schorch, and Martin Voss Part I: Opening the Fields of Learning and Calamities 2. Learning from Disasters in an Unsafe World: Considerations from a Psychoanalytical Ethnological Perspective Bernd Rieken 3. Learning About Disasters from Animals Greg Bankoff 4. Beyond Experiential Learning in Disaster and Development Communication Andrew E. Collins Part II: Learning from History? 5. "The Monster Swallows You": Disaster Memory and Risk Culture in Western Europe, 1500-2000 Christian Pfister 6. A Disaster in Slow Motion: The Smoke Menace in Urban-Industrial Britain Stephen Mosley 7. Historia Magistra Vitae, as the Saying Goes: Why Societies Do Not Necessarily Learn from Past Disasters Uwe Lübken Part III: Educational Concepts for Disaster Preparedness 8. Using a Spare-Time University for Disaster Risk Reduction Education Ilan Kelman, Marla Petal, and Michael H. Glantz 9. Communicating Actionable Risk: The Challenge of Communicating Risk to Motivate Preparedness in the Absence of Calamity Michele M. Wood 10. Critical Reflection on Disaster Prevention Education Marla Petal Part IV: Organizational Patterns of Interpretation and Practices of Learning 11. Normalization and its Discontents: Organizational Learning from Disaster Sven Kette and Hendrik Vollmer 12. Analyses of Natural Disasters and Their Contribution to Changes in Natural Hazard Management in Switzerland Michael Bründl 13. How Not to Learn: Resilience in the Study of Disaster Benigno A. Aguirre and Eric Best Part V: Societal Patterns of Interpretation and Practices of Learning 14. When Push Comes to Shove: The Framing of Need in Disaster Relief Efforts Tricia Wachtendorf, Samantha Penta, and Mary M. Nelan 15. Reduced Learning Processes Due to Biopolitical Patterns of Interpretation: Michel Foucault and the Contamination Disaster Matthias Hofmann 16. Science versus Metaphysics. The Importance of Everyday Life Experience for the Interpretation of Disaster Elísio Macamo and Dieter Neubert Part VI: Closing 17. Learning and Calamities—What Have We Learned?: Steps Towards an Integrative Framework Heike Egner and Marén Schorch

About the Editors

Heike Egner is Professor of Geography and Regional Studies at the Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt (Austria).

Marén Schorch is a Research Assistant at the University of Siegen (Germany).

Martin Voss is head of the Disaster Research Unit at Freie Universität Berlin (Germany).

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Environment, Culture, and Society

This series opens up a forum for advances in environmental studies relating to society and its social, cultural, and economic underpinnings. The underlying assumption guiding this series is that there is an important, and so far little-explored, interaction between societal as well as cultural givens and the ways in which societies both create and respond to environmental issues. As such, this series encourages the exploration of the links between prevalent practices, beliefs and values, as differentially manifested in diverse societies, and the distinct ways in which those societies confront the environment. 

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Disasters & Disaster Relief