I am hoping to put together a panel on historicizing the human elements of natural disasters. Anthropologists who study catastrophe and culture contend that disasters not only reveal but become “the expression of complex interactions of the physical, biological, and sociocultural” (Hoffman and Oliver-Smith, 2002). As such, they push us to understand: a society’s pattern of vulnerability; if and how forces of cultural change or preservation become mobilized; how people frame their peril, understand their environment, invent explanation, and utilize the future; the capacity of social organization and ethos to cope under extreme duress; how people divide and integrate themselves through unexpected migration; and the power of memory and place attachment in framing identity and calculating the risk of return. In thinking through these themes, how might historians of women/gender/sexuality approach the study of natural disasters and society throughout time and space?
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