Review of ‘Cultures and Disasters: Understanding Cultural Framings in Disaster Risk Reduction (2015)’ edited by Fred Krüger, Greg Bankoff, Terry Cannon, Benedikt Orlowski, and E. Lisa F. Schipper

  • Wilkinson O
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Emanating from two conferences held on culture and disasters in Germany in 2011 and 2013, this edited collection draws on the interdisciplinary expertise of a wide range of authors to examine the ways culture interacts with disasters, focusing particularly on disaster risk reduc-tion (DRR). With an increased awareness of cultural oppor-tunities and challenges in disaster as evidenced by the focus on culture and risk in the 2014 World Disasters Report (also edited by Cannon and Schipper) and the emphasis on the social, cultural, and environmental assets of people (as well as their economic and physical assets) in the Sendai Framework for DRR, this collection now reinforces the critical importance of research into culture and disaster for the improvement of future DRR measures by bringing together differing debates in one book. The book is divided into three parts. Chapters in the first part focus on the more conceptual debates on the relationship between disaster and culture. This includes chapters on the dangers of dominant security discourses subsuming more nuanced, culturally specific debates in DRR from Hewitt, the impact of neoliberal culture on disaster risk from Oliver-Smith, an overview of architec-tural adaptations to earthquakes around the world from Bankoff, the opportunities and challenges of learning from historical disasters from Schenk, and finally, a methodical explanation of the ways in which cultural influences strengthen or weaken people's vulnerability by Cannon—a chapter to be recommended as a wide-ranging overview of many of the issues involved in culture and disasters for those with a knowledge of DRR but wanting a more specific insight into cultural influences. The second part of the book turns to examine the linkages between culture and vulnerability. Lewis begins the section with a chapter on corruption in construction, which provides a case of how culture can enhance vul-nerability. Geiselhart et al. then approach culture from the level of the individual, examining how individuals' cultures influence their position in HIV/AIDS inter-ventions in Botswana. Schipper follows with a broad examination of the ways in which religion can be included in DRR, and Crabtree finishes the section with a case of the deep, culturally ingrained responses of people surrounding the River Kosi when it flooded in 2008. This chapter particularly stands out as Crabtree engagingly integrates culture as one element of a compre-hensive understanding of the disaster. In so doing, he pro-vides a useful model of how researchers can write to incorporate culture into the whole picture of disaster without idealising or essentialising it.




Wilkinson, O. (2016). Review of ‘Cultures and Disasters: Understanding Cultural Framings in Disaster Risk Reduction (2015)’ edited by Fred Krüger, Greg Bankoff, Terry Cannon, Benedikt Orlowski, and E. Lisa F. Schipper. Journal of International Humanitarian Action, 1(1).

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