Chapter 2

The Historical Geography of Disaster:‘Vulnerability’ and ‘Local Knowledge’in Western Discourse1


Greg Bankoff

It is not always immediately evident that when an extreme event is called a disaster, both speaker and audience are invoking a particular set of culturally determined principles used to evaluate what is or has taken place. Quite apart from being a physical phenomenon, whether natural or human-induced, the criteria used in classifying a hazard as a disaster are also a form of discourse that implicitly make certain statements about what constitutes threat and normalcy. This lack of awareness is perhaps only more apparent when it comes to discussing people's resilience in the face of such occurrences, and their ability to deal ...

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