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Course description

Disasters are usually sudden events that result in catastrophic loss of life and/or property. Words like "disorder," "chaos," and "panic" are often used to describe social phenomena in these situations – descriptions that (as you will learn) belie the highly socially structured nature of disaster-related behavior and processes. This course takes a closer look at disaster situations using a sociological lens. We will examine the social elements of disasters like the sinking of Titanic, the destruction of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11, the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, the Buffalo Creek Flood, the Challenger explosion, and others. We will watch footage of disasters as well as popular depictions of them. Through this class, students will learn about: (1) the collective dynamics that govern social behavior in disaster situations; (2) the role social networks and organizations play in disaster occurrence, response and recovery; and (3) the role social disadvantage plays in shaping individuals’ vulnerability to and fatality risk in disasters.

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Previously offered classes

The next offering of this course is undetermined at this time.