Panel 9 – Disruptive elements: Recurring disasters and gendered lives in Asia

Conveners: Helle Rydstrom (Department of Gender Studies, Lund University) and Claudia Merli (Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology, Uppsala University)

Abstract: While the Anthropocene is overall encompassing, it is also uneven. Some places are more predisposed to disasters than others and some people’s lifeworlds and livelihoods are more precarious in relation to climate hazards than others. The extent to which the Global South is confronted with climate-related disasters compared to the Global North is conspicuous, as is the extent to which various groups are negatively impacted by a climate disaster (Fordham et al. 2013; Wisner et al. 2012). People across Asia live with recurring disruptions to their lives due to extreme weather such as monsoon rains, typhoons, floods, fires, and landslides as well as volcanic eruptions (ESCAP 2015). Rather than being exceptional upheavals, and a bracketing of ordinary life, these damaging events are increasingly characterized by their recurrence and the prolonged impact they inflict upon people, property, and societies. Informed by ethnographic accounts, this panel explores from an interdisciplinary methodologically investigative perspective how various groups are rendered precarious and affected by disasters in differentiated ways due to their gender, sexuality, ethnicity, age, class, and bodyableness (Bradshaw 2013; Enarson and Chakrabarti 2009).

Long Abstract:Human interventions in nature is said to have propelled us into the era of the Anthropocene, into the Geological Age of Man (Crutzen and Stormer 2000; UNEP 2018). Founded on an a priori division between ‘nature’ and ‘culture’, the notion of the Anthropocene might be like a ‘poisonous gift’ (Latour 2014) for the social sciences in paradoxically both embracing and eschewing a differentiation of matter and meaning (Haraway et al. 2015; MacGregor 2017). While the Anthropocene is overall encompassing, it is also uneven. Some places are more predisposed to disasters than others and some people’s lifeworlds and livelihoods are more precarious in relation to climate hazards than others. The extent to which the Global South is confronted with climate-related disasters compared to the Global North is conspicuous, as is the extent to which various groups are negatively impacted by a climate disaster (Fordham et al. 2013; Wisner et al. 2012). People across Asia live with recurring disruptions to their lives due to extreme weather such as monsoon rains, typhoons, floods, fires, and landslides as well as volcanic eruptions (ESCAP 2015). Rather than being exceptional upheavals, and a bracketing of ordinary life, these damaging events are increasingly characterized by their recurrence and the prolonged impact they inflict upon people, property, and societies. Informed by ethnographic accounts, this panel explores from an interdisciplinary methodologically investigative perspective how various groups are rendered precarious and affected by disasters in differentiated ways due to their gender, sexuality, ethnicity, age, class, and bodyableness (Bradshaw 2013; Enarson and Chakrabarti 2009). In doing so, the panel unfolds the differing ways in which various groups in particular Asian contexts are exposed to, cope with, and resist climate change and how various types of crises’ antecedents exacerbate the consequences and ramifications of a catastrophic event. The papers included in the panel thus critically consider experience of labor in dealing with the effects of disasters; pain as experience in disaster; disruption in livelihood and work activities; caring for others in times of crisis; disability and embodiment in disasters; gendered protections and risk perceptions; displacement and forced migration; and violence, death, and mourning.