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CFP: Applied Anthropology of Risk and Disasters


The Applied Anthropology of Risk and Disasters

Special issue of Human Organization

Following the recent formation of a Topical Interest Group (TIG) on Risk and Disaster in the Society for Applied Anthropology, we are pleased to announce a call for submissions for a special issue of Human Organization on the topic of The Applied Anthropology of Risk and Disaster. The sheer scale of impact of disasters and their aftermath commands attention from anthropologists and social scientists to examine their root causes and processes of response and recovery. Globally, natural disasters affect nearly a quarter of the world’s population each year, among whom tens of millions are displaced and resettled. These phenomena are destructive of livelihoods and wellbeing and compel affected people to adapt to new environments, lifeways, and subsistence efforts. Disasters and disaster recovery are important for theoretical reasons as well. Over the course of the last four decades, a number of research breakthroughs have demonstrated that disasters are neither accidental nor “natural,” but are the result of often long-standing human-environment relationships. The fact that human practices can enhance the destructive capacities of geophysical phenomena and unevenly distribute the impacts of catastrophes along lines of socially produced gender, race, class, and ethnicity distinctions has opened up a wide field for investigating and theorizing sustainability and environmental justice. The insights of this research have much to contribute to the application of anthropology at both grassroots and policy levels.

To help shed light on an issue that is truly global in scale, we are looking for new research manuscripts to include in this special issue of Human Organization. The will cover the historically-produced and ecological causes of catastrophes as well as studies of mitigation, risk-reduction, response, and aftermath and recovery. Papers selected for this issue will contribute to broader anthropological topics of power, culture, identity, collective action, development, political economy, and the dialectical tensions between practice and representation. Manuscripts should address how disasters and disaster reconstruction involve varying degrees of change in patterns of individual and group access to resources, institutions and services, while exploring how social, cultural, political, and economic practices change or find new expressions in novel contexts. Submissions may point to diverse experiences within and between groups and the extent to which disaster relief efforts are riddled with contradictions – promoting recovery, cooperation, and development in some contexts, while creating dependency, empowering social and economic elites, reifying gendered hierarchies, manipulating allegiances, and engendering social conflict in others. The discourses which animate these contexts are often as substantial and important as the bodies that become objects of study and intervention. This is the means by which policies and practices are derived and by which they are contested by bodies who assert their subjectivity. Informal relations and social networks – pre-existing and emergent – play an important role in the politics, economy, and ecology of resettlement. Interested authors are challenged to interpret and explain relationships between disaster-affected persons and institutions big and small, by critically examining various attempts to become independent from institutions, build healthy relationships with them, and looking to the ways in which these relations are negotiated, contested, and transformed over time and space. Papers selected for this special issue will not only cover these complex dynamics, but will also focus on doing so in ways that are amenable to both theory and practice.

In order to be considered for inclusion in this special issue, interested authors should submit a 500-word abstract explaining the topic, questions, findings, and significance of their research no later than March 31, 2014. Please include a prospective title and a short bio-note (100 words) about yourself. All submissions should be in English. The editors will review the abstracts and invite submission of full-length papers for peer review (maximum 8,500 words inclusive of notes, references, abstract, and author’s statement). An invitation to submit a full-length paper is not a guarantee that the paper will be accepted, and all articles will undergo a peer-review process. Deadline for the submission of full-length papers: July 10, 2014. To submit your abstract, or for any further queries regarding this special issue, please contact the issue editors directly: A.J. Faas ( or Roberto Barrios (

AJ Faas, Ph.D.Society for Applied Anthropology – Risk & Disaster Topical Interest Group