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Communities in Disasters: Helpless or Helping?

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image of Perspectives on Global Development and Technology
For more content, please see Journal of Developing Societies.

Development faces the challenge of an unexpected rise in disasters of all kinds. Prompted by two popular books about disasters (Klein 2007; Solnit 2009), we review the North American scholarly literature on disasters to answer three questions. Practically, how do local communities respond to disasters? Theoretically, what is the relationship between local social networks and disaster response/recovery? For policy, whom should we count on to carry this out? The primary finding is that communities, however devastated, are not helpless, but helping, and in particular stages. Outside social forces can help, but disregarding local networks and processes impedes disaster response/recovery.

Affiliations: 1: University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, USA;, Email:; 2: University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, USA;, Email:


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