Inaugurating the “Disaster Studies” theme of our “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences” series, Kathleen Tierney reflects on how major findings from social science research on disasters can help to contextualize and frame our understanding of the Covid-19 pandemic. In particular, she looks at the importance of communication to the influence of social responses in hazardous circumstances, reminding us that society tends toward social solidarity, rather than disorganization and panic, in times of crises. Though many social practices, such as scapegoating, can further tear the fabric of society, disasters reveal and amplify not only inequality and vulnerability, but also potential strength. In moving forward, it will be vital to learn the lessons research on both aspects have to offer.
The September 11 attacks and their aftermath are a living laboratory for those wishing to better understand how individuals, groups, and organizations respond under extreme disaster conditions. Along with other major disaster events, September 11 revealed much about institutional responses and collective behavior in crises, underscoring what is already known about the social processes that […]