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Uncertain 'tropical' Grounds: Histories of Entanglement of Social Inequalities in Latin American Earthquake Disaster Management(s)

As the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile have recently illustrated, natural disasters reveal hidden structures of social inequalities in societies. At the same time, the social response to disasters is made responsible for producing new or deepening gaps that already exist between social groups in the affected area.

Especially Latin American countries are not only sites of deep social inequalities, but are also frequently subjected to natural disasters. Thus, the disaster management regimes in the aftermath of Latin American catastrophes are of major importance for the study of social inequality.

Such regimes are heterogenous, complex figurations of local, national and international agents, who themselves are unequally endowed with resources and capacities of access. Moreover, in post-colonial countries those power asymmetries between actors on different scales involved in a disaster management regime reflect the interdependent entanglements between former colony and metropolis. If transnational and international emergency aid reduces or perpetuates social inequality it must be analysed in this context. Knowledge about local conditions plays a decisive role in this process. What is recognised as relevant knowledge about the affected societies by local, national and international agents? How is this knowledge bargained between those agents? How do perceptions of the self and other influence the deliberation of knowledge?

The purpose of this research is to approach this set of questions and thereby the influence of disaster management regimes on social inequality, undertaking a historical sociology of knowledge research focusing on the earthquakes in Nicaragua in 1972, in Mexico-City in 1985, and in Haiti in 2010.

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