Session 5: Theoretical and conceptual development

Save favourite 1 Mar March 2019

Research Presentations Wednesday 27 March at 1 pm.

Emergence and Volunteerism in Disaster Response Operations

Roine Johansson, Mid Sweden University
The actions of unaffiliated volunteers in disaster response operations are often regarded as a form of emergence, which is frequently considered a spontaneous and context-free phenomenon. Recently, analyses of emergence have been criticized for not acknowledging the pre-conditioned aspects of social life, such as power, networks and community attachment. In the present study, such conditions have been included in the analysis of emergence in a disaster response context. The aim is to investigate under what conditions emergence occurs. What kind of emergent actions take place in response to a disaster? Can just anybody get involved in emergent response activities on a voluntary basis? What kind of social relations do emergent volunteers develop with other volunteers and with other actors? Interviews have been undertaken with people who made voluntary contributions, outside the official response operation, to the response to a large-scale forest fire in Sweden. Results show that emergence is not as context-free as earlier assumed. Our study shows the importance of strong ties to the community, with friendship or professional connections between local people. In some cases, the emergent nature of voluntary actions decreased over time: some emergent activity became more organized and was included in the official response operation.


Conceptualizing community in disaster risk management

Aleksi Räsänen, Norwegian University of Science and Technology and University of Helsinki
The concept of ‘community’ is frequently used in disaster risk management (DRM) literature, but it is usually not defined or elaborated upon in any detail. In the broader social science literature, community is a widely discussed concept and multiple ways of understanding community have been identified. These include, among others, perceiving a community as (1) an organized group of actors carrying out a task (such as DRM) together, (2) individuals involved in informal interactions, and (3) a specific geographic location including its residents, organizations and authorities. 

In practical policies in the Nordic countries, the understanding and role of community is a thorny issue. In fact, public authorities’ role and individual self-preparedness is frequently emphasized, leaving little room for community in relation to DRM. 

This presentation is based on a review of policy documents, as well as qualitative and quantitative research material from multiple study areas prone to natural hazards in Finland, Norway and Iceland. We outline key features of different understandings of community and reflect on how they relate to Nordic DRM practices across national and local scales. We argue that the role assigned to communities in DRM practices differs according to how 'community' is defined and understood.


Intersectional risk theory

Anna Olofsson and Susanna Öhman, Mid Sweden University
The purpose of the paper is to present how intersectional risk theory can contribute to a deeper understanding of the ways in which risk is intertwined with prevailing power structures and therefore often tends to reproduce norms about gender, ethnicity and class. Intersectional risk theory involves new theoretical perspectives on risk and crisis with the help of concepts and methods of analysis developed within the field of gender studies. Within the framework of intersectional risk theory, risk is described as an underlying perspective, as a lens through which power relations, and their interaction, can be studied. Such an analysis is important as risk and crisis also affect society and people's social relations. By incorporating intersectionality into risk theory, we can clarify how new risk configurations create new inequalities, while old structures remain unchanged.