chapter  2
Learning from Disasters in an Unsafe World: Considerations from a Psychoanalytical Ethnological Perspective
ByBERND RIEKEN
Pages 15

The subheading of this article refers to a psychoanalytic-ethnological perspective, thus combining two fields of study that usually follow separate paths and are marked by opposing points of view because they focus either on the individual or the collective. However, this dichotomy is of little use in the context of this chapter, because the question of whether “we” can learn from disasters in an uncertain world touches upon both areas, for disasters affect the individual no less than the collective in which they live. The situation is very similar to the “process of civilization”, which Norbert Elias described as “the gradual transition from less to more rational thought and behavior [. . .] both a psychological and a social phenomenon” (Elias 1992, 386). Since, in the case of a disaster, the focus is the dichotomy of the predictability versus unpredictability of human life as an aspect of rationality or lack of rationality, the same rules apply.