About the project – University of Copenhagen

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Changing Disasters > About the project

About the project

A report published by the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission referred to the earthquake, tsunami, and following melt down of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in 2011 as a disaster 'made in Japan' (Commission 2012: 9), underlining the endogenous character of the calamity. Since March 2011, however, it has become increasingly clear that the Fukushima disaster was not only 'made in Japan' but also 'making Japan'. The incident has triggered a fundamental transformation of the country's economic, political, legal, and cultural institutions. The research project "Changing Disasters" aims to explore this two-way relationship between disaster and society. It is vital to understand how modern disasters are shaped by societies – but it is no less vital to understand how contemporary societies are shaped by disasters.

According to recent estimates, 244 million people were victims to natural disasters in 2011. In addition a countless number of people were indirectly affected through a constant flow of information and images of disasters delivered by global media, and by the way institutional actors prepare for, mitigate, and respond to disasters. The aim of “Changing Disasters” is to investigate how the perpetual presence of real or virtual disasters gives shape to contemporary societies. This calls for an ambitious trans-disciplinary approach. As hybrid phenomena disasters cannot be explored without 360 degrees knowledge of the various dimensions of human life.

The project is organised in three thematic clusters that cut across the traditional grid of scientific disciplines: (1) Imaginations addresses the social, political, technical, and cultural aspects of interpreting disasters, (2) Interventions investigates the trans-disciplinary and creative aspects of responding to disaster scenarios, and (3) Transformations sets out to cover the trans-disciplinary aspects of the technical, institutional and social transformations in societies, initiated by disasters on a short- as well as a long-term basis.

The project is carried out under the auspices of COPE, Copenhagen Center for Disaster Research (http://www.cope.ku.dk).