Definition of Disaster

"What is a disaster?" asked Quarantelli (1998), and 12 scientists responded; their views fall within two categories: (1) a disaster is an objectively identifiable phenomenon; or (2) a subjective, socially constructed process (Oliver-Smith, 1999, p. 22). The subjective definition is more useful to anthropology as it views a disaster as a socially constructed crisis in which the significance to the survival of the society is more important than the physical structures that were destroyed. This definition allows for a wide variety of disrupting events to be considered as disasters, such as a flu epidemic, a major earthquake, or the collapse of a banking system. Within the disruptive process, culturally prescribed ways in which people deal with the system collapse or societal readjustment can be studied and understood.

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