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The progression of vulnerability: a multi-scalar perspective on disasters, the case of Chaitén, Chile

Sandoval Henriquez, V.A.; (2017) The progression of vulnerability: a multi-scalar perspective on disasters, the case of Chaitén, Chile. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This research analyses policy responses to disasters in Chile. The main objective is to explore linkages between temporally and spatially distant processes of policy, governance and decision-making, and the materialisation of disaster vulnerability in the form of ‘unsafe conditions’. The study focuses on the progression of vulnerability in a post-disaster context, critically reflecting on the multiplicity of agencies and pressures in creating and increasing vulnerability of a specific territory at local scale. The central argument is that the Chilean model of disaster risk management and reduction is dominated by top-down and reactive approaches that tend to diminish the potentials of policy responses to disasters and ultimately became sources of vulnerability and risk. The research’s analytical framework is grounded in disaster studies and specifically it adopts a social constructionist approach to disaster, vulnerability and geographical scale focused on the Pressure and Release model. The latter allows one to look at the state territorial organisation of Chile as a structural factor in the national model of disaster management, and to place root causes and dynamic pressures of disaster vulnerability within the multi-scalar configuration of the country. The thesis chooses the Chaitén volcanic eruption that occurred in May 2008 in Los Lagos Region of Chile, and the disaster policy context in the country as the empirical base on which the argument is put forward. Several policy responses are examined using qualitative methods at national, regional and local scales, revealing the centralisation of disaster governance in Chile as a key factor in producing inadequate responses to the disaster that failed to utilise people’s knowledge and local organisational capacities. This disaster policy context mediated the materialisation of four unsafe conditions in Chaitén: the uneven distribution of risks; the limited access to services; the erosion of trust in public authorities; and the weaknesses of emergency planning. The research re-problematises and suggests new ways of ‘thinking vulnerability’ and disaster governance from a wider multi-scalar perspective. It explains that when policy responses to disasters do not consider local capacities and realities, these can facilitate the (re)production of unsafe conditions, and contribute to and perpetuate the generation of risks over time. This could help to challenge some still dominant views found in Chile and in many other national governments that dissimulate the causality of disaster generation and risk accumulation.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: The progression of vulnerability: a multi-scalar perspective on disasters, the case of Chaitén, Chile
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Disaster vulnerability, Disasters, Policy response, Disaster governance, Chile
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1561339
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