THE ORDER OF THINGS AND THE WORLD ORDER: MAKING PSYCHOSOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL SENSE AFTER DISASTER

L. Colbeau-Justin, laboratoire de psychologie sociale, université de nimes, Nimes
L. Creton-Cazanave, THE, CNRS, Grenoble, France

Abstract

Natural disasters have multiple social and individual consequences: they affect routines, disturb social organization, and provoke individual and collective stress. The classic management of these events targets essential needs through emergency assistance. But environmental psychology develops an approach to risk management, based on addressing psycho-social factors and reestablishing spatial habits and uses in the transformed environment, in order to tame its chaotic aspect. Systematically observing reordering behaviors becomes then as important as organizing emergency assistance.

Those reordering behaviors aim at reestablishing physical and symbolic sense to the surrounding space. They appear to be necessary as part of the active reconstruction of own’s universe each individual undertakes, preceding the building of a new world and reality.

Living in a devastated area requires the implementation of new individual and social adaptation processes aiming at reducing uncertainties and insecurity. Those processes tend to model a new relation towards space and people, making new sense to daily reality. This communication will expose results of researches led after major flooding and earthquake.

In terms of social responses, even though deviant behaviors exist, they are quickly stigmatized. So what dominates is altruism and solidarity. Selfless behaviors and social mobilization appear as an efficient coping strategy (for instance providing social support through involvement in militant activities or improvement of the living conditions). With these activities develops a stronger sense of territorial and social identity. In terms of spatial responses, the changing relation to space leads immediately to attempts of reappropriation. Related to this, insignificant behaviors are observed seeking to reestablish order: a newly high school graduate putting back her framed diploma of a crumbling wall, personalization of shelters. As a group, people tend to restore routines with symbolic markings and transitory social and meeting places.

These processes are part of individual and social recovery, as they allow reorganization of the world at individual and collective scales. They can act as resources or constraints depending on their integration to post-disaster social response. This presentation argues that these elements are crucial in the response’s improvement.

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