Keywords: Ethnography of Disasters; Post-Disaster; Power; Resistance; Emergency; Shock Economy.
This short essay introduces the special issue of ERQ devoted to disasters. It discusses such events as complex phenomena embedded in the history of the milieus in which they take place. Disasters are here considered the litmus papers of pre-existing social relations, which are active within and outside the communities hit by an undesired event. Thus, catastrophes and the like become a way to explore local social structures and the hidden agreements between powers and forces situated at different points on the social ladder. They are also seen as a way to examine various forms of resistance that operate both in the formal realms of the law and in everyday life, and which are practiced by different societal actors in order to reorganize their lives or to acquire further wealth. Finally, disasters are also considered as rhetorical formulas that are aimed at producing forms of social intimacy and/or imposing new orders and socio-economical regimes.