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date: 03 March 2024

Disaster Anthropologylocked

Disaster Anthropologylocked

  • Adam KoonsAdam KoonsUS Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination, in the Office of the Administrator
  •  and Jennifer TrivediJennifer TrivediUniversity of Delaware


Disaster Anthropology uses theoretical and methodological tools from across anthropological subfields to understand the effects of disasters. Anthropologists based in academia and practice, often working collaboratively or across disciplines, seek to understand the relationships among historical, social, cultural, economic, political, environmental, and climatic factors in every type of disaster and humanitarian crisis across the globe. Practitioners often work within disaster response agencies in such functions as policy reform, program design, and disaster response management. Academics work in anthropology and interdisciplinary centers and departments, studying and teaching about disaster and anthropological issues.

Disaster anthropologists link closely with broader interdisciplinary disaster studies and practices. They contribute an anthropological, holistic, and long-term perspective, including the use of ethnography and participant observation, theories, and analyses. In the early 21st century there has been considerable, and constantly increasing, recognition of disaster anthropology. This area of work includes recognition of what disaster anthropology has to contribute and its place as an appropriate field of engagement for anthropologists. This recognition has been demonstrated by the publication of numerous books, chapters, articles, special journal issues, and hundreds of conference presentations. Disaster anthropology has gained the support of the major anthropology associations such as the American Anthropological Association (AAA) and the Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA), resulting in the formation of specialized formalized bodies such as the Risk and Disaster Topical Interest Group (RDTIG) within the SfAA, and the Culture and Disaster Network (CADAN). Accordingly, there are also an increasing number of targeted university anthropology courses on disasters.

Disaster anthropologists contribute to the overall understanding of how and why disasters have the impacts that they do and what the consequences of disasters can be. By examining disaster contexts, disaster anthropologists improve understanding of pre-existing circumstances that contribute to those disasters, including people’s perspectives on hazards, risks, uncertainty, inequality, and inequity. Disaster anthropologists have shown that disasters are the visible, explicit result of deeper and more complex processes. Anthropologists share this work in governmental, nongovernmental, academic, and public arenas. Disaster anthropology brings together critical lines of inquiry from the larger fields of anthropology and disaster studies, offering valuable perspectives not only on understanding but also on improving disaster conditions.


  • Applied Anthropology

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