Disaster Subcultures: The Cultural Residues of Community Disasters

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Disaster Research Center
Communities throughout the world are subject to the disruptive impacts of a variety of disaster agents. From a sociological perspective, the impact of a flood, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, or some other agent may be considered as disaster when the agent presents demands and threats to a community which cannot be met by the institutionalized means that are utilized for its normal emergencies. When disaster strikes, a community must replace its routine social system with alterative activities and forms of organization that are more appropriate to the disaster context. Typically, much of the activity and organization which are utilized by the community in responding to the disaster emerge during the actual stress of the disaster situation. Often, however, the shape of disaster response depends in part upon a community’s past experience with similar events. That is, previous community disaster activity provides some residue of learning which is applied to subsequent situations. When these residues are preserved, we can speak of community possessing a “disaster subculture.” Preservation, therefore, is the essence of a disaster subculture. One the one hand, the residues of learning are applied to aid in the community’s survival. On the other hand, the subculture itself is preserved through time by the transmission of its elements to new community members. The true indication of the existence of a disaster subculture, therefore, is the perpetuation of successful patterns of adaptation to the disaster context through socialization. These subcultures appear to develop in many communities that experience repetitive impact from specific disaster agents.
community disaster, subcultures, disaster agents