Rethinking Disasters as Events

This article is part of the framework I wrote for my dissertation. I was very frustrated with the disaster literature because it was not useful to think about disasters in the long-term. So I went to history and thinking about events. It changed everything I was writing. And this is paper is the result of my efforts trying to put sociology and history together for the study of disasters.


Recent trends in the Sociology of Disaster have challenged classical notions of disasters as extraordinary events, replacing this view with one that sees disasters as normal, common occurrences that depend on preexisting social forces. In this paper I show that this constructivist

perspective has enriched the field enormously, making it more sociological. However, it has also failed to relate disasters with the possibility of social change. Therefore, I ask how we can approach this topic in a fruitful way; one that takes into account disasters´ effects in the long term. For this, I argue, we do not need to replace the notion of disasters as events; instead, we need to change what we understand as an event.

To do so, I reach to Historical Sociology and its notion of events as a sequence of occurrences that produces social transformations. Under this view, events are not considered as external shocks but, on the contrary, they are understood as “eventuating” from past conditions. However, this definition also allows us to understand that disasters can

have important consequences for the future. I will conclude that it is only by considering disasters as situated events that we can analyze their effects in the long term and reveal them as key moments for social change

Reference: Gil, Magdalena (2017) “Rethinking Disasters as Events” CUADERNOS ISUC Vol 2, N 2, pp. 2-15.