Sunday, 12 February 2017

What is essential reading in disaster studies?


Disaster studies have grown enormously since I started in the field 37 years ago. At that time there were few protagonists, two journals and not many papers. Now there are more than 80 journals that deal entirely or mainly with disasters or closely related topics, and more than 500 that publish papers in this field at intervals that vary from occasionally to frequently. There are now many thousands of 'disasterologists' in universities, research institutes and planning and policy offices throughout the world.

As a journal editor who deals with about 800 unpublished manuscripts a year in this field, it often strikes me that one of the biggest issues with papers is that the authors do not have an adequate grounding in the field. This induces them to ignore fundamental research or, equally often, to "reinvent the wheel" by duplicating previous research that they have not read. Lack of familiarity with the field induces model makers to adopt untenable assumptions, which would not stand up in real situations. Theoretical developments are stymied by the tendency of those who have not read enough to go round and round covering debates that have already happened many times before (what is resilience? Who cares?). Finally, the opportunities for discussion are reduced by lack of common ground.

In another of these postings I put forward the idea that 2017 is the centenary of academic studies of disaster. Whether or not that is the case, we are close to some kind of anniversary, as the 1920s were a time in which disaster studies set sail on the choppy sea of academic endeavour.

In conversation with colleagues, it seems that there is some support for the idea that we can compile the core curriculum. This would consist of key academic works that broke new ground and are fundamental to an understanding of what the field is and where it has gone during its century of existence.

I do not wish to be dictatorial. I have no power, moral, intellectual or otherwise, to mandate what should be read. However, I have some ideas about key works and I list them below. Many, even the oldest of them, are available as downloadable pdfs. Please note that the list is tentative and by no means exhaustive. It would be best not to overextend it, but I am sure to have left of some highly significant works. I list the works chronologically and not alphabetically. No doubt the list will grow as others take up the challenge and argue to add, or even subtract, works.

I have not included textbooks. There are some very good ones in circulation, but the choice is up to the reader. I have included books that, in my view, have had a seminal impact upon the development of the subject.

Towards a core curriculum


Dunant, Henri 1859. A Memory of Solferino. International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva, 38 pp.

Walford, Cornelius 1879. The Famines of the World, Past and Present. Edward Stanford, London, 303 pp.

Prince, Samuel Henry 1920. Catastrophe and Social Change: Based Upon a Sociological Study of the Halifax Disaster. Studies in History, Economics and Public Law no. 94. Colombia University Press, New York, 151 pp.

Barrows, Harlan H. 1923. Geography as human ecology. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 13: 1-14.

Carr, Lowell Julliard 1932. Disaster and the sequence-pattern concept of social change. American Journal of Sociology 38(2): 207-218.

White, Gilbert Fowler 1945. Human Adjustment to Floods: A Geographical Approach to the Flood Problem in the United States. Research Paper no. 29. Department of Geography, University of Chicago, 225 pp.

Fritz, Charles E. and Eli S. Marks 1954. The NORC studies of human behavior in disaster. Journal of Social Issues 10(3): 26-41.

Moore, Harry Estill 1956. Towards a theory of disaster. American Sociological Review 21: 734-737.

Wallace, Anthony F.C. 1956. Human Behavior During Extreme Situations. Disaster Study no. 1. National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., 35 pp.

Wallace, Anthony F.C. 1956. Tornado in Worcester. National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council Disaster Study no. 3. National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC, 166 pp.

Fritz, Charles E. and J.H. Mathewson 1957. Convergence Behavior in Disasters: A Problem in Social Control. Disaster Study no. 9. National Research Council, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 102 pp.

Fritz, Charles E. and Harry B. Williams 1957. The human being in disasters: a research perspective. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 309: 42-51.

Barton, Alan H. 1963. Social Organization Under Stress: A Sociological Review of Disaster Studies. Disaster Study no. 17, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC, 208 pp.

Barton, Alan H. 1970. Communities in Disaster: A Sociological Analysis of Collective Stress Situations. Doubleday, New York, 368 pp.

Bates, Frederick L. 1963. The Social and Psychological Consequences of a Natural Disaster: A Longitudinal Study of Hurricane Audrey. Disaster Study no. 18, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C. 190 pp.

Anderson, Jon W. 1967. Cultural adaptation to threatened disaster. Human Organization 27: 298-307.

Burton, Ian, Robert W. Kates and Gilbert F. White 1968. The Human Ecology of Extreme Geophysical Events. Natural Hazards Research Working Paper no. 1. Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, 29 pp.

Hewitt, Kenneth 1970. Probabilistic approaches to discrete natural events: a review and theoretical discussion. Economic Geography Supplement 46(2): 332-349.

Russell, Clifford S., 1970. Losses from natural hazards. Land Economics 46: 383-393.

Hewitt, Kenneth and Ian Burton 1971. The Hazardousness of Place: A Regional Ecology of Damaging Events. Research Publication no. 6, Department of Geography, University of Toronto. University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 154 pp.

Kates, Robert W. 1971. Natural hazards in human ecological perspective: hypothesis and model. Economic Geography 47(3): 438-451.

White, Gilbert F. (ed.) 1974. Natural Hazards: Local, National, Global. Oxford University Press, New York, 288 pp.

Dynes, Russell R. 1975. The comparative study of disaster: a social organizational approach. Mass Emergencies 1: 21-31.

O'Keefe, Phil, Ken Westgate and Ben Wisner 1976. Taking the naturalness out of natural disasters. Nature 260: 566-567.

Haas, J. Eugene, Robert W. Kates and Martyn J. Bowden (eds) 1977. Reconstruction Following Disaster. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 331 pp.

Davis, Ian 1978. Shelter After Disaster. Oxford Polytechnic Press, Oxford, 127 pp.

Burton, Ian, Robert W. Kates and Gilbert F. White 1978, 1993. The Environment as Hazard. First edn Oxford University Press, New York, 240 pp; Second edn Guilford Press, New York, 304 pp.

Timmerman, Peter 1981. Vulnerability, Resilience and the Collapse of Society. Environmental Monograph no. 1, Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Toronto, Toronto, 42 pp.

Davis, Ian (ed.) 1981. Disasters and the Small Dwelling. Pergamon, Oxford, 220 pp.

Douglas, M. and A. Wildavsky 1982. Risk and Culture: An Essay on the Selection of Technical and Environmental Dangers. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California, 224 pp.

Hewitt, Kenneth (ed.) 1983. Interpretations of Calamity from the Viewpoint of Human Ecology. Unwin-Hyman, London: 304 pp.

Hewitt, Kenneth 1983. The idea of calamity in a technocratic age. In K. Hewitt (ed.) Interpretations of Calamity from the Viewpoint of Human Ecology. Unwin-Hyman, London: 3-32.

Beck, U. 1992. Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. Trans M. Ritter. Sage, London, 260 pp.

Blaikie, Piers, Terry Cannon, Ian Davis and Ben Wisner 1994, 2003. At Risk: Natural Hazards, People's Vulnerability and Disasters. Routledge, London, 320 pp.

Quarantelli, Enrico L. 1995. What is a disaster? International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters 13(3): 221-229.

Horlick-Jones, Tom 1995. Modern disasters as outrage and betrayal. International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters 13(3): 305-315.

Quarantelli, Enrico L. 1997. Problematical aspects of the information/communication revolution for disaster planning and research: ten non-technical issues and questions. Disaster Prevention and Management 6(2): 94-106.

Quarantelli, Enrico L. (ed.) 1998. What is a Disaster? Perspectives on the Question. Routledge, London, 312 pp.

Mileti, Dennis S. (ed.) 1999. Disasters by Design: A Reassessment of Natural Hazards in the United States. John Henry Press, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC, 351 pp.

Perrow, C. 1999. Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies (2nd edn). Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 386 pp.
or
Perrow, C. 2001. Accidents, normal. In N.J. Smelser and P.B. Baltes (eds) International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Pergamon, Oxford. 33-38

Slovic, P. (ed.) 2000. The Perception of Risk. Risk, Society and Policy Series. Earthscan, London, 384 pp.

Stallings, Robert A. (ed.) 2002. Methods of Disaster Research. International Research Committee on Disasters Book Series no. 2. Xlibris, Philadelphia, 524 pp.

Perry, Ronald W. and Enrico L. Quarantelli (eds) 2005. What is a Disaster? New Answers to Old Questions. Xlibris Press, Philadelphia, 375 pp.

Rubin, C.B (ed.) 2012. Emergency Management: The American Experience 1900-2010 (2nd edn). CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, 314 pp.

General science

Some works of more general science are particularly useful to disaster studies. Here is my selection.

Paine, Thomas 1794. The Age of Reason. Edition 2009, Truth Seeker Company, Escondido, California, 358 pp.

Kant, Immanuel 1798. The Conflict of the Faculties (Der Streit der Fakult├Ąten). Trans. Mary J. Gregor, Edition 1979, Amaris Books, New York, 221 pp.

Maslow, Abraham Harold 1943. A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review 50: 370-396.

Von Bertalanffy, K. Ludwig 1950. The theory of open systems in physics and biology. Science 111: 23-29.

Von Bertalanffy, K. Ludwig 1950. An outline of General Systems Theory. British Journal of Philosophical Sciences 1: 139-164.

Simon, Herbert A. 1956. Rational choice and the structure of the environment. Psychological Review 63: 129-138.

Kuhn, Thomas S. 1962, 1970. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 222 pp.

Simon, Herbert A. 1962. The architecture of complexity. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 106(6): 467-482.

Ackerman, Edward A. 1963. Where is a research frontier? Annals of the Association of American Geographers 53(4): 429-440.

Harvey, David 1969. Scientific explanation: the model of natural science. Ch. 4. Explanation in Geography. Edward Arnold, London: 30-43.

Simon, Herbert A. 1978. On how to decide what to do. The Bell Journal of Economics 9(2): 494-507.