Invisible Reconstruction. Cross disciplinary responses to disaster and approaches to sustainable resilience

Lucia Gunning's picture
Call for Papers
September 1, 2021
Subject Fields: 
Cultural History / Studies, Psychology, Social Sciences, Teaching and Learning, Urban Design and Planning

This international and interdisciplinary conference, to be held online in the 10th anniversary year of the Great East Japan Earthquake and on the anniversary of the Kanto earthquake of 1 September 1923, will focus on approaches to preparedness and prevention, and on the invisible, intangible processes of societal mending required following man-made, natural and biological disaster.

Physical reconstruction alone can be superficial and risks creating fragile, brittle and insecure societies and the conference seeks responses to disaster that promote societal mending and psychological wellbeing. In a hyper-connected and always-on world, solutions rooted in localisation, reduced transport and the rediscovery of traditional skills and culture can provide security and resilience but risk creating protectionism and isolation. Conversely global travel and social mobility create opportunities for psychological support and economic recovery but risk disaster tourism and reinforcing existing vulnerabilities.

Public space is vital to the creation of safe, sustainable communities, and essential for providing refuge and release in emergency. The conference will promote the role of public spaces and place-making in societal mending, building resilience and stimulating the consolidation of localised cities.

In the context of the COVID-19 emergency, the conference will examine the impact on societies of remote collaboration, home-working and distance learning and question whether communications technologies provide solutions and opportunities or exacerbate isolation and vulnerability. Looking at societies where the pandemic has superimposed a further crisis on a pre-existing state of emergency, the conference will look at how experiences of catastrophe can provide insights to build sustainable, resilient societies.

Invisible Reconstruction seeks the exchange of global knowledge and experiences to change current thinking on disaster preparedness and recovery and promote best practices that understand the fundamental role and lasting benefit of promoting and repairing the intangible threads that create societies.


Natural, biological and man-made disasters disproportionately impact the marginalised and economically underprivileged, from children and the elderly, to the physically impaired, placing increased burdens on women and further impacting refugees and migrants. These categories have paid the highest price as a consequence of COVID-19 and the pandemic has exposed underlying fragilities and the inequality of access to technology, to shared resources and to open space.

  • How can disaster responses avoid compounding pre-existing vulnerabilities?
  • How can public space reduce social inequality and create places of safety, refuge and release?
  • How can societies improve access to technology for the most vulnerable and what lessons can be learned from the pandemic?

Education and Schools

Schools, universities and museums are key to community cohesion and societal resilience, yet their importance is often forgotten in disaster response. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed fragilities at the different stages of the educational process, further highlighting those of the educators themselves and the importance of maintaining physical contact to preserve psychological well being.

  • As adaptable, polyvalent public spaces of participation and refuge, how can schools protect from disaster, provide safety and promote recovery?
  • What is the role of education in promoting resilience and social cohesion in communities at risk?
  • In a rapidly changing world, how can cultural educators such as schools, universities and museums support life-long-learning and adaptation?

Participation and Engagement

A core aspect of the conference will be the role of communication in raising risk-awareness, planning for disaster response, promoting post-disaster public engagement and in ensuring institutional transparency. Communication is key to individual mental wellbeing as well as to the long-term success of social reconstruction.

  • Can social media support societies impacted by disaster, reinforcing and extending the sense of community and reconnecting fractured social bonds?
  • How can information technology empower communities to participate in processes of recovery?
  • Are ground-up initiatives the key to sustainable, resilient recovery and preparedness?
  • How can remote participation support in-loco initiatives and how can global engagement promote local recovery?

Art, Culture and Intangible Heritage

Art and culture provide a sense of identity, bring social cohesion and can be a focus for participation, engagement and sustained recovery. Conversely war and natural disaster provide the ideal conditions for looting and the loss of cultural heritage. The loss of physical access to art and culture during the COVID-19 emergency is exacerbated by the collapse of the cultural economy.

  • How can the cultural sector recover from disaster and what is its role in stimulating economic recovery?
  • How can digitisation and information technologies promote and protect cultural heritage, maintain access to culture and support artists following disaster?
  • How can communities affected by disaster re-engage tourists without being subsumed by disaster tourism?
  • Does the rediscovery of intangible culinary and agricultural traditions and of craft processes provide a basis for unique experiences, sustainable tourism and for global-facing localised communities?


  • We invite submission of abstracts limited to 1000 words identifying the applicable session and theme
  • Each presentation slot will have a maximum duration of 8 minutes
  • Abstracts and presentations to be in English
  • Collected abstracts will be published online prior to the conference
  • The conference will be held online with an in-presence element; the final programme and conference link will be published in the last week of August
  • Contact

Important dates

  • Call for 1000 word abstract 25 May 2021
  • Acceptance 15 June 2021
  • Submission of video presentations 20 July 2021
Contact Info: 

Lucia Patrizio Gunning