It is widely assumed that humanity should be able to learn from calamities (e.g., emergencies, disasters, catastrophes) and that the affected individuals, groups, and enterprises, as well as the concerned (disaster-) management organizations and institutions for prevention and mitigation, will be able to be better prepared or more efficient next time. Furthermore, it is often assumed that the results of these learning processes are preserved as "knowledge" in the collective memory of a society, and that patterns of practices were adopted on this base. Within history, there is more evidence for the opposite: Analyzing past calamities reveals that there is hardly any learning and, if so, that it rarely lasts more than one or two generations. This book explores whether learning in the context of calamities happens at all, and if learning takes place, under which conditions it can be achieved and what would be required to ensure that learned cognitive and practical knowledge will endure on a societal level. The contributions of this book include various fields of scientific research: history, sociology, geography, psychoanalysis, psychiatry, development studies and political studies, as well as disaster research and disaster risk reduction research.

chapter 1|23 pages


Can Societies Learn from Calamities?
ByHeike Egner, Marén Schorch, Martin Voss

part I|49 pages

Opening the Fields of Learning and Calamities

chapter 2|15 pages

Learning from Disasters in an Unsafe World

Considerations from a Psychoanalytical Ethnological Perspective
ByBernd Rieken

chapter 3|14 pages

Learning about Disasters from Animals

ByGreg Bankoff

chapter 4|18 pages

Beyond Experiential Learning in Disaster and Development Communication

ByAndrew E. Collins

part II|48 pages

Learning from History?

chapter 5|17 pages

“The Monster Swallows You”

Disaster Memory and Risk Culture in Western Europe, 1500–2000 1
ByChristian Pfister

chapter 6|18 pages

A Disaster in Slow Motion

The Smoke Menace in Urban-Industrial Britain
ByStephen Mosley

chapter 7|11 pages

Historia Magistra Vitae, as the Saying Goes

Why Societies Do Not Necessarily Learn from Past Disasters
ByUwe Lübken

part III|56 pages

Educational Concepts for Disaster Preparedness

chapter 8|18 pages

Using a Spare-Time University for Disaster Risk Reduction Education

ByIlan Kelman, Marla Petal, Michael H. Glantz

chapter 9|16 pages

Communicating Actionable Risk

The Challenge of Communicating Risk to Motivate Preparedness in the Absence of Calamity
ByMichele M. Wood

chapter 10|20 pages

Critical Reflections on Disaster Prevention Education

ByMarla Petal

part IV|54 pages

Organizational Patterns of Interpretation and Practices of Learning

chapter 11|18 pages

Normalization and Its Discontents

Organizational Learning from Disaster
BySven Kette, Hendrik Vollmer

chapter 13|17 pages

How Not to Learn

Resilience in the Study of Disaster
ByBenigno A. Aguirre, Eric Best

part V|55 pages

Societal Patterns of Interpretation and Practices of Learning

chapter 14|18 pages

When Push Comes to Shove

The Framing of Need in Disaster Relief Efforts
ByTricia Wachtendorf, Samantha Penta, Mary M. Nelan

chapter 15|19 pages

Reduced Learning Processes Due to Biopolitical Patterns of Interpretation

Michel Foucault and the Contamination Disaster
ByMatthias Hofmann

chapter 16|16 pages

Science versus Metaphysics

The Importance of Everyday Life Experience for the Interpretation of Disaster
ByElísio Macamo, Dieter Neubert

part VI|14 pages


chapter 17|12 pages

Learning and Calamities—What Have We Learned?

Steps Towards an Integrative Framework
ByHeike Egner, Marén Schorch