Natural disaster and “survival community”
REVET Sandrine - (Author)
8th conference of European Sociological Association, "Conflict, Citizenship and Civil Society"
Glasgow, UNITED KINGDOM
natural disaster, crisis, community, Venezuela, social roles
From an ethnographic study of a natural disaster that occurred in Venezuela in 1999, the paper proposes to rethink the concept of “therapeutic community” [Fritz 1961, Dynes 1970, Barton 1970]. This concept refers to the new forms of organisation and social roles that the disaster situations can generate, making ineffective the usual or older forms of organisation. The case studied prompts us to propose the notion of “survival community”. This community, which forms in the first moment of urgency, while life is threatened and external actors (firemen, rescue teams, media) are not yet present on the disaster scene, is a situational community, and calls onto ordinary frameworks of social life and actors' competencies. This community contributes, in a transient way, to “level ” the ordinarily role hierarchies; and the roles that are activated are those that focus on life preservation. The “ survival community ” thus exists in the particular situation of urgency. It forms from necessity and with the prospect of life preservation, and is particularly weakened by the interfering of actors in charge of rescue operations.