The concept of disaster studies and disaster management.

A good overview of concepts with key definitions.

  • Donner, William, Havidán Rodríguez, and Joseph E. Trainor, eds. Handbook of Disaster Research. 2nd ed. 2007. Reprint, Cham: Springer, 2018.

An overview of 'disaster studies'.

  • Etkin, David. Disaster Theory: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Concepts and Causes. Amsterdam: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2016.


Three traditions or paradigms for disaster definitions:

  • a classic approach with variants (physical destruction: Fritz, a disruption that prevent essential functions of a society)
  • the hazards-disaster tradition (agent based: a disaster is an extreme event that arises when a hazard agent intersects with a human use system. Consequently, disasters take place as part of normal environmental processes and those processes are important for study)
  • an explicitly socially-focused approach (socially based: Quarantelli: (1) sudden onset occasions, (2) serious disruptions of the routines of collective units, (3) evidenced in the adoption of unplanned courses of action to adjust to the disruption, (4) with unexpected life histories designated in social space and time, and (5) posing danger to valued social objects. Disasters interact with vulnerability, reflecting weaknesses in social structures or social systems)
  • This is after Perry, Ronald W. ‘Defining Disaster: An Evolving Concept’. In Handbook of Disaster Research, edited by William Donner, Havidán Rodríguez, and Joseph E. Trainor, 2nd ed., 4–22. 2007. Reprint, Cham: Springer, 2018.

Observe that all of these traditions are in various degrees anthropocentric and the concepts of societies used here are excluding nonhuman lifeforms.

A More-than-Human Reframing

A more-than-human interpretation with have to deal with some challenges:

  • what systems are disrupted? do we include nonhuman and more-than-human subtle and complex historical systems? (yes)
  • what social objects become lost and to whom?
  • what are the appropriate timelines (that is: what is 'sudden' here?)? how do the temporal dimensions and the disruption depend on the evolutionary, species, and life history of particular lifeforms? is the use of antibiotics on human gut flora and fauna a disaster for those societies?


A call to rethink the culture-nature divide in both 'hazard' and 'vulnerability' approaches in disaster studies.

  • Riet, Gideon van. ‘The Nature–Culture Distinction in Disaster Studies: The Recent Petition for Reform as an Opportunity for New Thinking?’ International Journal of Disaster Risk Science 12, no. 2 (2021): 240–49. https://doi.org/10/gmbpbk.

A manifesto that calls for a rethink of the nature-culture divide that was signed by some prominent disaster studies scholars.

Petition Power, Prestige & Forgotten Values: A Disaster Studies Manifesto

On the unfair treatment of animals during disaster (they are abandoned because they are property)

  • Bekoff, Marc, ed. ‘Disasters and Animals: Legal Treatment in the United States’. In Encyclopedia of Animal Rights and Animal Welfare, 2nd ed., 169–73. 1999. Reprint, Santa Barbara, Calif: Greenwood Press, 2010.