The idea behind this blog is simple: to provide a forum for discussion about disasters of all kinds and a place where a broad audience can find information about the latest policies, legal developments and research concerning disaster mitigation, management, and recovery. We hope this blog will be an avenue for researchers to broaden their audience beyond academic settings, but we also would like it to be a place where more than an academic perspective is represented.
While the idea seems simple, it’s complexities are obvious when you consider all the voices that can be a part of this discussion!
There are many individuals thinking and writing about disaster policy, the effects of disasters on various populations, and the difficulties of disaster mediation and recovery. They provide a wide variety of viewpoints, including those who have been caught in a disaster; activists interested in helping disaster victims; and analysts ranging from a remarkable number of perspectives including (but not limited to) political scientists, sociologists, economists, historians, novelists, folklorists, policymakers, lawyers and journalists. And those are just a few we have encountered in the last two years!
So, given the challenges, what motivates us to pursue our simple idea in all its complexity?
When we began researching disasters, we were quickly and painfully aware of the absence of a forum where multiple views were exchanged. Yet as interdisciplinary researchers who do the sort of work that requires us to talk with our research participants (flood victims, mostly), we desperately wanted to find and hear multiple perspectives from as many perspectives as possible. The absence of such a forum alarmed us for many reasons, not least of all because we feared that important ideas and insights were slipping through the cracks as everyone talked amongst themselves and not with each other.
We want to facilitate those conversations in part because we have heard, while doing our research and presenting it at conferences, so many ideas from so many people. We want them heard — and we want them heard by other people who are thinking about, writing and working on issues around disaster politics. And, on a more selfish level, we want to talk back!
That said, this is not just a blog about disaster studies, though this academic area of study will frame much of what appears here. It’s also a blog about the people who are affected by disasters, which in the twenty-first century, is nearly everyone.
About our regular contributors and our interests
My name is Laura Hatcher, and I am currently a writer, independent researcher and a consultant. My own personal intellectual obsession and what I have published about the most has to do with the historical development of regulation of private property. Importantly for disaster studies, much time, effort and thought has been put into policies that are designed (not always explicitly) to protect property and the interests of ownership. Whose property, and what type of ownership receives protection or, alternatively is sacrificed, are interesting questions I hope to explore here with you. They have far-reaching implications for much emergency management policy, not to mention flood control, and various insurance regimes, including fire, wind, hail… And financial disasters, too! While one may think “property” narrows our scope, in fact, it does not when you consider the wide variety of property we have available in our society, all of which can be impacted by various disaster scenarios. “Property” gives us an anchor and a frame to help us sort and prioritize our work here, but it is not intended to narrow us too much.
Indeed, the other two regular contributors have slightly different interests. Randy Burnside, Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the MPA program at Southern Illinois University, is a nationally recognized expert in emergency management. After watching friends and family struggle with recovery in post-Katrina New Orleans, Randy has spent a great deal of time thinking about and studying the politics of managing disaster contexts. Logan Strother, a doctoral fellow at Syracuse University, is particularly interested in civil liberties and bureaucratic behavior. Together, the three of us are co-authoring research on the Mississippi Levee System. Separately, we maintain some very different worldviews. We also bring different skill sets to our work, and so we range in methods from quantitative to qualitative, mixed methods and textual interpretation. The research we discuss here, then, will also range across methods and methodologies. Both Randy and Logan will also serve as the associate editors of this blog, helping me think through editorial decisions as well as providing content and facilitating discussions.
This blog has been a long time in coming, and Randy, Logan and I are all thrilled it is finally here. We hope you find it interesting, helpful and useful. Over the next few weeks we’ll be adding more content, including links to other relevant blogs, reviews of research, analyses of court cases, and lots of other things. In addition, we have a few guest contributors lined up. We will be posting 2-3 times a week as we get started. Check back often!
We welcome your input and comments!
If you have an idea for a blog post, or would like us to consider a particular topic, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will certainly consider your ideas! If you have a specialty related to the topics of this blog, introduce yourself! But beware! We might ask you to contribute a post!
Please register with us so that you can comment on posts. We ask that you always remember that our chief goal here is to foster discussion. Engage with the ideas, disagree, agree, critique. This will move our discussion forward and help us all learn about the issues we are addressing here. As the moderator, I do want to let you know that posts straying into areas that are not relevant or that are personally disrespectful of the post authors or other comments will be deleted. Also, please note that this blog will not accept anonymous posts. You must register with us to post a comment — but we sincerely hope you do so!
A note on the photo at the top of this post
The photo comes courtesy of John Story, of Wolf Island Farms, Missouri. It’s a photo of the shop on his farm, a few days after the activation of the Birds Point/New Madrid spillway. Take a careful look — the scum line at the back shows how high the water was. You’ll be reading about the floods of 2011. All of us were residents of southern Illinois, parts of which were hit very hard, at the time of the 2011 flood. All three of us have been interested in flood recovery issues on both sides of the river and have been watching the new policymaking that is ongoing for the levee system. Because it encapsulated all those issues, the photo seemed especially appropriate for our blog launch. We thank Mr. Story for providing the picture!