Again and Again: Is a Disaster What We Call “Disaster”? Some Conceptual Notes on Conceptualizing the Object of Disaster Sociology

November 1995 (VOL. 13, NO. 3)

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Following Carr who defined disaster as the collapse of cultural protections, this paper develops a sociological approach to processes commonly called a “disaster”. Epistemologically, the definitions used in science and practice are classified and redefined as “programmatic declarations”. Definers declare what they perceive as a problem and how they intend to solve it. Given the fact that neither “problem and perception” nor “solution and exigency” necessarily match, the probability of mismatches increases when inconsistent conceptions prestructure the view one has of reality. Still, the transformation of nature into culture is interpreted within “premodern” expression and false casual attractions: “Des Astro”, “evil star”, “bad luck” and “blind faith”. In contrast, this paper suggests a conception that defines disaster as an empirical falsification of human action, as a proof of the correctness of human insight into both nature and culture.