Colloque – Anthropologie de la Catastrophe

International Anthropology Workshop – Comparative Study of Disasters and Upheavals

The concept of “disaster” has been subject to discussion among anthropologists. In its proper sense this notion refers to a sudden, calamitous event causing a serious disruption of the society: typically an earthquake or a flood. But in disaster studies it encompasses a wider array of events such as terrorist attacks, epidemics, plane crashes, as well as territorial remodeling, reservoir projects, migrations, and settlement projects for nomadic ethnic groups.
Researchers have indeed identified common reflection points and social dynamics that can be object of comparative analysis in these various cases. This international workshop aims to gather researchers involved or interested in such a perspective. In order to widen our view, we propose to introduce the notion of “upheaval”, which is less negatively connoted while sufficiently open to embrace various cases of big changes (planed, expected, abrupt), affecting or not the territory, but either way strongly disrupting a population. The goal is to examine this theme from an anthropological point of view. Upheavals are necessarily related to a constellation of social and cultural factors and contexts in which they are embedded. Researches focus on the social vulnerability such events reveal as well as on the risk issues, historically and structurally inserted in local contexts and people’s life. Case studies take into account the overall context, consider the historical and cultural background and emphasize the progress of processes before, during and after the event. Focusing on the micro-sociological scale allows a better understanding of the dynamics at work, of people’s perceptions and representations of the event. It also facilitates the identification of responses and resonances these events produce, both in terms of practices and discourses, in the post-traumatic settings and reconstruction processes. The ethnological perspective goes beyond the entanglement of local and global economic and politics’ power layout, to fully seize these issues embodied in social actors. This international workshop emphasizes on this crucial investigation method and on ethnography in the study of disasters and upheavals, their conditions of production, the specificities of their outbreak, the interpretations they stimulate, the responses they generate in the physical and social world as well as the potential effect on people’s social representations. The workshop ambition is to offer an academic platform for comparative cross-society and cross-culture reflections arising from detailed cases, and for proposing prospective useful concepts and theory frameworks. Its objective is to deepen the fundamental research on disaster and upheaval as anthropological objects, but also to offer intellectual tools for applied anthropologists and disaster professionals involved in improving sustainability and dealing with the difficulties and challenges brought by such contexts.


  • School for Ethnic Studies and Qiang Research Center at Southwest University for Nationalities (Chengdu, China) 西南民族大学西南民族研究院与羌学中心(中国成都)Tang Yun 汤芸, tangyun8848[at], Zhang Yuan 张原, map8848[at]
  • The Research Center on Modern and Contemporary China (Paris, France) 近现代中国研究中心(法国巴黎)Katiana Le Mentec 卡嘉娜,katianalementec[at]
  • Society for Applied Anthropology Risk and Disasters Topical Interest Group (USA) 美国应用人类学会危机与灾难研究小组  Zhang Qiaoyun 张巧运 qzhang5[at]





如 何定义“灾难”,人类学有着长久的讨论。灾难在通常意义上是指:会引起社会 震动坍塌的突发性灾害事件,如地震、洪水等。然而,人类学的灾难研究所关注的其实是更为宽泛的事件,其中既包括突然与消极的灾变(如恐怖袭击、流行病、空 难等),也包括有规划但影响巨大的激变(如改造拆迁、水库工程、移民及牧民定居工程等)。事实上,学者们基于案例已开始反思性地提倡:应在对灾变事件的社 会动态性探讨中纳入比较研究的视野。为深化学理对话和拓展考察视野,本工作坊将引入“激变”一词来形容强烈地影响了一定人群的巨大变迁(消极或积极),而 不再局限于通常使用的消极的“灾难”概念。

与 灾难一样,激变与生态的改变有关,也必然与其所嵌合的一系列社会文化因素相 关。灾难与激变都揭示出一种结构性地嵌入地方语境与人类生活之中的社会脆弱性和风险场景。因此,相关研究不仅要整体性地关注事件所处的社会文化语境与历史 背景,还应以过程论的视角来探讨事件的动态演变。这也就要求研究者们应将地方场景纳入思考之中,以便深入地把握理解社会动态性的灾难感知与激变再现,以及 人们具体性的实践应对和话语回应。要实现这一目标,则必须以民族志的考察为基础,对灾难与激变的发生情境、爆发后呈现的特点、所激发的解释和促生的回应等 进行梳理。如此才能超越地方社区、全球经济与政治权力格局的三角结构,从而充分把握社会行动者对灾难与激变的感知及应对。

本 工作坊由中、欧、美三个学术区域的学者共同召集参与,拟于2015年10月 16~18日在成都举行,旨在成为跨社会文化之比较研究的学术平台,并试图基于民族志研究来促生有益的学术概念及理论框架。在深化灾难与激变的基础性学理 研究之时,本工作坊也期望能对应用人类学及相关专业有现实性的促进,最终为人类社会有效应对生活可持续性所遭遇的种种困境与挑战做出贡献。

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