When normality fails: Discursive reactions to disaster

Authors

Keywords:

disasters, epistemology, discourse, Canguilhem, disruption, desastres, epistemología, discurso, perturbación

Abstract

Shocks from disasters challenge the normality of everyday life. Emotional and political reactions include anxiety and blame, but these must come together with knowledge through shared discourse to formulate responses, often immediate. The study draws on a phenomenological analysis of personal experience and discursive reactions to fires and the pandemic. It is informed by ethical and social approaches to epistemology and discourse, drawing on sociology of knowledge and studies of rhetoric. From this it is concluded that facts are agreed elements for debate, as in the legal tradition, rather than guarantees of certainty. Knowledge relevant to disaster discourse arises through shared experience and robust communicative institutions, from the local to the scientific, and including the wisdom of First Nations. Disasters are uncanny because they defy everyday know-how. In disrupting the relationship of people to their milieu, they require a new accommodation among and between human and non-human actors.

Los impactos de las catástrofes desafían la normalidad de la vida cotidiana. Las reacciones emocionales y políticas incluyen la ansiedad y la culpa, pero éstas deben unirse al conocimiento a través del discurso compartido para formular respuestas, a menudo inmediatas. Este estudio se basa en un análisis fenomenológico de la experiencia personal y de las reacciones discursivas ante los incendios y la pandemia. Se basa en enfoques éticos y sociales de la epistemología y el discurso, recurriendo a la sociología del conocimiento y a los estudios de retórica. De ello se concluye que los hechos son elementos consensuados para el debate, como en la tradición jurídica, más que garantías de certeza. El conocimiento relevante para el discurso de las catástrofes surge a través de la experiencia compartida y de instituciones comunicativas sólidas, desde lo local hasta lo científico, pasando por la sabiduría de las Primeras Naciones. Las catástrofes son insólitas porque desafían el saber cotidiano. Al trastornar la relación de las personas con su entorno, exigen un nuevo encaje de actores humanos y no humanos.

Available from: https://doi.org/10.35295/osls.iisl/0000-0000-0000-1256

Author Biography

Richard Mohr, Social Research Policy & Planning

Dr Richard Mohr is an urban and legal sociologist and a director of Social Research Policy and Planning Pty Ltd. He has worked as a community health coordinator, planning and evaluation consultant and academic in Law, Architecture, Law, and Sociology at the University of Wollongong, Sydney University, UNSW, McGill University. Email address: rmohr@srpp.com.au

Published

27-01-2022 — Updated on 01-06-2022

How to Cite

Mohr, R. (2022) “When normality fails: Discursive reactions to disaster”, Oñati Socio-Legal Series, 12(3), pp. 689–708. Available at: https://opo.iisj.net/index.php/osls/article/view/1361 (Accessed: 26 June 2022).