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Critical and Emergent Issues in the Field of Risk and Disaster: An Overview
Over the past several decades, disasters of every sort become more frequent and severe across the planet. In addition, the number of people facing threatening hazards has drastically increased rather than decreased. Along with these two alarming conditions, there has come about the realization that numerous disaster recovery efforts and risk reduction endeavors have proven deficient and even worsened calamity, leaving countless people in dire circumstances. All together, these factors have led to the widespread understanding that without the input of anthropology’s deep cultural perspective and the inclusion of people’s elemental and local life-ways, these dire situations are destined to continue. Anthropology has, therefore, become a major contributor to the worldwide comprehension of risk, hazard, vulnerability, and disasters. This paper serves as overview and panel introduction to many of the critical issues anthropology faces in its much needed involvement in the field of risk and disaster. Reviewed are old set and new sets of driving factors, including global warming, urban densification, and migration to inherently dangerous coasts. Also detailed is the gap between risk and disaster knowledge and what enters policy and practice, and reasons for it, the lingering consequences of colonization and decolonization, the expansion of nation state involvement, the explosion of convergent NGOs and the disconcerting hidden politics behind their sympathy, and the three vectors of pain involved in the increasing problem of displacement and resettlement.