A Contextual Approach To The Social Psychological Study of Disaster Recovery

August 1983 (VOL. 1, NO. 2)

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The breakdown model has led to an irresolveable theoretical and empirical stalemate in the literature of community-wide disaster. This paper attempts to move beyond the present debate toward an empirically grounded reconceptualization. The case study employed for this purpose is the collapse of the Teton Dam which occurred in the United States in 1976. In-depth interviews and archival materials are used to reconstruct, from the perspective of disaster victims, the typical (successful) and the atypical (unsuccessful) recovery patterns of three years. Both patterns are explainable by reference to social processes, i.e., to collective arrangements created for distributing human and material resources used for the rebuilding effort.