Raised Under Bad Stars: Negotiating a culture of disaster preparedness


  • Daniel Starosta University of California Berkeley, Goldman School of Public Policy, California, United States




culture, storytelling, folklore, climate adaptation, indigenous knowledge, informal infrastructure, contextual engineering


In efforts to prevent, respond to, and recover from disasters, what alternatives are available to top-down strategies for imposing expert knowledge on lay publics? How is the context of communities’ socio-ecological context understood in the development of programs and policy on their behalf? What can be learned from community narratives and cultural practices to inform disaster risk reduction? The ways communities have regarded disasters and natural hazards in the cultural sphere can provide a lens to inform the understanding of their ability to withstand shocks and the factors that led to such conditions. Only by tracing the complexities of creating, transmitting, and preserving a culture of preparedness among disaster-vulnerable communities can we claim to be working towards policy that is informed by their own experience.  I collected examples of how different communities perceive, prevent, and respond to disaster through art, music, and literature and analyzed how these were embedded into local narratives and how historical context influenced such approaches. My findings show that communities use cultural practices to contextualize experiences of hazards into their collective narrative; that is, storytelling and commemoration make disasters comprehensible. By framing disasters as an anthropological inquiry, practitioners can better recognize the influence of a place’s nuance in the disaster management canon–guided by these details, not despite them. 


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How to Cite

Starosta, D. (2023). Raised Under Bad Stars: Negotiating a culture of disaster preparedness. International Journal of Disaster Risk Management, 5(2), 1–16. https://doi.org/10.18485/ijdrm.2023.5.2.1