Interventions – University of Copenhagen

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Changing Disasters > About the project > Interventions

Interventions

RC-IN will investigate the formal and informal practises by which humans act on disasters.

At the institutional level, disasters generate planned and often large-scale interventions by institutional actors with a humanitarian mandate such as the UN system, international humanitarian organisations, governments and non-governmental organisations. Focus on planned interventions is likewise prevailing in much contemporary research on international disaster responses. (Inter)national military forces and private enterprises are other institutions that play an increasing role in modern disasters, adding yet other values and interests to the field that deserves scholarly attention.

At the cultural level, experiences from recent disasters such as the Indian Ocean tsunami, Hurricane Katrina or the earthquake in Haiti challenge the institutional level and indeed demonstrate that planned humanitarian interventions are not the only, perhaps not even the most significant, type of interventions. Some of the most conspicuous social actors include local community-based organisations and citizens, but as disasters have also become global (imagined) phenomena citizen groups and individuals from around the globe also mobilise in support of disaster victims or to put disaster on the political agenda. A central aim of this research cluster is to integrate the institutional and the cultural level regarding disaster intervention. This will be done by approaching disaster interventions as an entangled field of actors, who intervene (each with their own motivation, set of values, knowledge, resources and objectives), and who all contribute to or affect the production and outcome of a disaster. The compulsion to intervene and to do so through projects is reflected in academic writings on disaster, which are typically framed by concrete interventions and projects in connection with a particular disaster. This research cluster goes beyond this narrow focus and instead examine how disasters, as general imaginaries and concrete experiences, produce actions that have a constitutive effect on societies that exceeds the spatial, social, and temporal boundaries set by a disaster. The research cluster will use the paradigmatic disasters and other selected empirical cases to reconstruct the complicated field of social interactions, relations, and practices, relevant not only to disaster research, but to society as such. With a view to developing an apposite and comprehensive theoretical understanding of disasters as a field of complex planned and spontaneous interventions and a global humanitarian assemblage, the research cluster aims to map the involved actors in selected disaster scenarios and investigate their individual actions and discursive constructions of disasters, and more importantly to explore how they interact (or not) and influence each other and with what outcome.

For further information please contact Associate Professor Birgitte Refslund Sørensen or Associate Professor Peter Kjær Jensen.