A brief history of the Disaster, Conflict and Social Crisis Research Network

The first steps for the establishment of a Network for Disasters in the context of ESA were undertaken during the ISA World Congress of Sociology held in Bielefeld Germany (18-23/7/1994) by Dr. Nicholas Petropoulos who had been a member of the founding ESA Steering Committee and also a member of ISA RC 39. A paper was circulated among members of RC 39 asking for declaration of interest. The paper was signed by colleagues from 9 different countries (Jennifer McKay of Australia, Marco Lombardi of Italy, Mathew Willenius of Finland, Jean Toschenko of Russia, Gevork Pogosian of Armenia, Wolf Dombrowski of Germany, Maxim Kiseler of USA, Joseph Scanlon of Canada and Nick Petropoulos from Greece).

The next step involved the canvassing by letter (6 February 1995) of the RC39 European members who had not attended the Bielefeld ISA meeting with regard to their interest in forming an RN within the context of ESA. Plans were to constitute the Network in the upcoming 2nd ESA conference to be held in Budapest (30 August-2 September 1995). Strong interest in forming an RN was expressed by Bruna De Marchi of Italy, Uriel Rosenthal and Menno van Duin of the Netherlands, Alla V. Mozgovaya of Russia, Orjan Hultaker of Sweden, Kerry Abbot of Israel, and Vildan Akan and Biersen Gokce of Turkey. Information about the Budapest conference and the intention to constitute the Network was sent to all social scientists who had declared interest in the “Network on Disasters.” Unfortunately, none of those who had expressed an interest in the formation of a network was able to come to Budapest. Meanwhile, two more new sociologists (Kkalid Koser of the Netherlands and Agnes Nemeni of Romania) who had attended the Budapest conference expressed interest in forming a Network on Disasters.

Following the abortive attempt to organize the Network at Budapest, a letter, along with a membership application, was sent to all those who until then had expressed interest requesting them to become members of ESA. At the same time, their thoughts were surveyed as to the title and scope of the Network, i.e. whether it should restrict itself to “Natural” and “Technological” disasters (and carry the traditional title, “Research Network on Disasters”) or whether it should also include “complex” disasters such as crises and have a more inclusive title (e.g. Research Network on Crises and Disasters). The response was discouraging in both senses. A communication with the ESA Secretariat revealed that only three of those who had expressed interest had become members of ESA. Among those who could not become members, one said that she was already a member of ISA RC39 and could not afford to pay membership fees for two networks. As we needed 10 members from at least three different countries to constitute a network, we could not proceed to a formal application. With regard to the title and scope of the network, two of the colleagues who replied were in favour of the more inclusive title. Among those who replied, Prof. Uriel. Rosenthal said, “We must not confine our interests to mere disasters but expand our mental map to contingencies and crises’, appending at the same time an article to document his arguments.

There followed an announcement in the European Sociologist (No. 3, 1995/1996), inviting colleagues with interests in “natural”, “technological”, and “complex” (conflict) disasters to join the Research Network on Disasters (provisional title). An attempt to have a founding meeting at the 3rd ESA conference in Essex (August 1997) failed due the Dr. Petropoulos’ inability to attend the conference. The founding meeting of the Research Network eventually took place at the 4th ESA conference in Amsterdam, where the “Working Group on Disasters” (transitional status of Networks) under the coordination of Dr. Petropoulos, had also organized four sessions on disasters with the participation of 12 sociologists. The founding members included (in alphabetical order) Russell Dynes (USA), Anne Eyre (UK), Maureen Fordham (UK), Klaus Hartmann (Germany), Timo Kopomaa (Finland), Nicholas Petropoulos (Greece), Boris Porfiriev (Russia),Yuriy Sayenko (Russia), Hanna Schmuck (Germany), Robert Stallings (USA), Pal Tamas (Hungary), and Vera Vratusa (Yugoslavia). During the organizational meeting, the founding members adopted the more comprehensive title for the Network (Disaster and Social Crisis Research Network), decided on the purposes of the Network and stipulated the means for achieving these purposes. The founders also decided to operate on a less formal basis, not to charge membership fees for the Network, except for the ESA fees for those who want to become regular members of the Association. A provisional Coordinating Committee, consisting of Nicholas Petropoulos (Greece) as Coordinator and Wolf Dombrowski (Germany), Boris Porfiriev (Russia), Maureen Fordham (UK), Timo Kopomaa (Finland), Robert Stallings (USA) and Vera Vratusa (Yugoslavia) as members, was set up and charged with the submission of the formal membership application to the ESA Executive Committee. In addition, the founders decided to establish a webpage under the management of Maureen Fordham and an Electronic Newsletter under the editorship of Nicholas Petropoulos.

The formal application for recognition as a Research Network, along with a report of activities of the “Working Group on Disasters” during the Amsterdam conference, the composition of the Coordinating Committee, a listing of the 13 founding members, the activities of the network since Amsterdam and the Network’s plans, was submitted to the ESA Executive Committee on 22 April 2000 and formal recognition was granted during the ESA Executive Committee meeting in Prague (28-29 April 2000). At the time of formal recognition, the D&SCRN had established its webpage, with host the Anglia Polytechnic University of UK and had also published the first issue of its Electronic Newsletter with the assistance of the Emergencies Research Center of Athens.

Among the more well-known in the field to subscribe to our request to become a RN were Enrico Quarantelli (USA), Russell Dynes (USA), Uriel Rosenthal (Netherlands), Wolf Dombrowski (Germany), Joseph Scanlon (Canada), Bruna de Marchi (Italy) and Boris Porfiriev (Russia), Dennis Wenger (USA), Robert Stallings (USA) and Dorothea Hilhorst (Netherlands) ( See above historical account for more scholars).

Author: Nicholas Petropoulos
Emergencies Research Centre

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