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Cultures of Disaster

The growing impact of natural hazards on many societies has engendered a demand for more in-depth knowledge about how best to deal with their effects. This study explores the relationship between environment and culture in the contemporary Philippines, where natural hazards have occurred with such historical frequency that their constant threat has been integrated into the schema of daily political, economic and social life to form what can be called a 'culture of disaster'. The aim is to use the example of the Philippines to examine the relationship between culture and environment in societies that are inherently vulnerable to natural hazard on account of their geographical location, topography or, more recently, as a result of historically unprecedented processes of environmental change. Bankoff argues that hazard is not perceived in the same way by all societies but like other aspects of culture is a social construction, and that the extremes of wealth and power that characterise these societies are partially the result of the frequency and magnitude of such events. The resultant culture of disaster' treats hazard as a constant feature of the physical environment, one where the chronic threat of extreme geophysical events has been normalised as an integral part of the culture. Within an interpretive framework, this study shows that where hazard has been normalised as an integral part of culture, behaviour becomes characterised by the development of specific coping mechanism that permit particular societies to reach permanent accommodation with the effects of these events. In the Philippines, the absolute cost of these disasters is not shared by the society as a whole but falls disproportionately on those least able to bear them. The book will be of interest to practitioners engaged in relief policy and administration in developing countries, as well as academics in both the social and natural sciences, providing a useful resource for those in Asian studies, Development studies, Environmental studies, Political Science and the growing field of Disaster studies.
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Table of Contents

Foreword Acknowledgement Introduction: Of Jellyfish and Coups 1. 'Vulnerability' as Western Discourse 2. Environment and Hazard in Southeast Asia 3. A History of Hazard in the Philippines 4. The 'Costs' of Hazard in the Contemporary Philippines 5. The Politics of Disaster Management and Relief 6. The Economics of Red Tides 7. The Social Order and the El Nino Southern Oscillation 8. Cultures of Disaster Conclusion: Hazard as a Frequent Life Experience Notes Bibliography

About the Author

Greg Bankoff is Senior Lecturer in Southeast Asian History at the University of Auckland. His previous books include Crime Society and the State in Nineteenth-Century Philippines (Hawaii University Press: 1996).


'Often intriguing , the book provides a fascinating historical account of the intertwining of society and a hazardous environment in the Philippines.' - Department of Geography, National University of Singapore 'Cultures of Disaster addresses important issues about human - environmental interaction in the Philippines. The author should be commended for their achievement in advancing knowledge on this vital, if still under researched subject.' - Department of Geography, Kings Collage, London

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