Natural Disasters and Cultural Strategies Responses to Catastrophe in Global Perspective Conference at the German Historical Institute, Washington, D.C. February 19-22, 2004

Conveners: Christof Mauch (German Historical Institute, USA) Christian Pfister (University of Berne, Switzerland)

Humans have been coping with the effects of natural disasters for as long as they have been recording their history. Both the impact of natural disasters and the ways humans deal with them have changed over time. The conference “Natural Disaster and Cultural Strategies: Response to Catastrophe in Global Perspective” will compare the different strategies used for coping with floods, earthquakes, and windstorms (e.g. hurricanes and tornadoes) around the world from about 1500 to 1970. The topic “Natural Disasters and How They Have been Dealt With” will also be explored at the 20th International Congress of Historical Sciences, ICHS, to be held in Sydney in July 2005.

The participants will compare different strategies used for coping with floods, earthquakes and windstorms (e.g. hurricanes and tornadoes) around the world in the period from about 1500 to 1970. We invite proposals addressing, but not limited to, the following questions:

– How were disasters perceived and interpreted? – Have disasters had an impact on culture? How has culture shaped responses to disaster? – How was the information on disasters disseminated? What role did the media play?

a.. How did existing institutions – e.g., governmental or ecclesiastical bodies, charities and social welfare organizations – participate in the response to disasters? b.. How were disaster relief measures organized and how did they evolve over time? c.. How have public expectations placed on political leaders in times of disaster changed?

– How was the memory of disasters recorded and what role has this memory played in preparing for catastrophes in the future? – To what extent did natural catastrophes spur the creation of institutions? To what extent did they shape public expectations of the responsibility of the authorities?

a.. How have learning processes following disasters differed from country to country (or from region to region) over time? b.. Are there discernible regional and/or cultural patterns in preventive strategies? c.. Is it possible to speak of the emergence of a “culture of disaster” in any region that has experienced repeated natural disasters?

Proposals should not be limited to case studies but rather take a long-term perspective within national context. Participants will be invited to present their research at the German Historical Institute (GHI) in Washington, D.C. Please send a short proposal of not more than 500 words and a brief c.v. with your postal and e-mail addresses no later than August 31, 2003 to the GHI.

Baerbel Thomas German Historical Institute 1607 New Hampshire Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20009 USA [email protected] Tel.: 202-387-3355 Fax: 202-483-3430